Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Charles S. Hausman

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Second Advisor

James R. Bliss

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Third Advisor

Deborah L. West

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


The need for developmental education is ever present in higher education as more students annually enter college underprepared for entry level college coursework. Underpreparedness is a pervasive concern in higher education. Community colleges in particular are the primary means of shepherding developmental education. Academic underpreparedness is just one of the many obstacles students face, however, when endeavoring to obtain a college education. Students often have additional challenges such as those frequently accompanying first-generation college status, rural status, low socioeconomic levels, low levels of self-efficacy, and the lack of resilience which can pose threats to their academic success. Despite these adverse factors, some students still succeed academically. From such adversity, protective factors can emerge which enable students to develop the skills necessary to succeed academically and non-academically.

Resilient developmental students at a rural Appalachian community college are the focus of this qualitative study. In light of being rural, developmental, and possibly first-generation college students, some students find within themselves the ability to become resilient and obtain academic success. Resilient students possess protective factors which aid them in becoming successful and maneuvering the educational system from developmental course work to college level course work and even on to college graduation. This resiliency can be explained and shared with other students to serve as an impetus for the development of their own resilience despite being at-risk students. This qualitative dissertation study focuses on the lived experiences of ten community college students from rural Appalachia. This study tells their stories of success in their own voices.