Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Deborah L. West

Second Advisor

Charles S. Hausman

Third Advisor

James R. Bliss


The experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) students currently attending universities in rural, Bible Belt areas in the United States are unknown. Additionally, there is disconnect noted in the literature between the purpose of a postsecondary educational institution and what is actually experienced by LGBTQ students. While the college experience should promote personal and academic growth that allows students to reach their full potential, LGBTQ students have historically experienced ill-treatment on campuses which accounts for at least some disconnect noted in the literature. This qualitative phenomenological study offered a group of LGBTQ students the opportunity to tell their stories using their voices describing what it is like to be a LGBTQ student attending a university in rural, Bible Belt America. Findings from this study provide an understanding for universities to promote a healthy, affirming campus climate and combat any findings of disconnect between a quality experience and what is actually experienced by LGBTQ students. Findings will also allow institutions to address the needs of LGBTQ students that could indeed increase retention and recruitment of LGBTQ students.