Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Deborah L. West

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Second Advisor

Charles S. Hausman

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Third Advisor

Robert Biggin

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


Gifted students in the United States are often underserved. Collegiate honors programs are a proven way to provide for gifted students' special needs. Many gifted students attend community colleges, and these institutions have a set of challenges to starting and maintaining thriving honors programs, including accusations of elitism and lack of resources. Community colleges in Appalachia have an additional set of challenges to face, including high proportions of first generation students, rurality, and poverty. Efforts for thriving honors programs need to be effective and efficient at meeting gifted students' needs, but there is little research on the programs at these institutions and how students perceive their experiences.

This study is a qualitative case study of the honors program at a small, rural, Appalachian community college in Kentucky. The aim of the study is to assess how students in the program perceive the degree to which the program is meeting their intellectual, social, and professional needs. Students were interviewed with open-ended questions about their experiences in their honors program, including why they joined, the positive aspects, and what needs improvement.

It is found that overall, students positively perceived their experience with the honors program, particularly the interdisciplinary discussion format to the coursework, meeting students from other campuses, relationships with faculty, opportunity for travel, and professional development. The negative perceptions students identified were need for more funding and resources, help with transfer to senior institutions, and challenges with honors contract classes.

More research into the intersection of gifted students, honors programs, community colleges, and Appalachia is needed to adequately meet the needs of this underserved population. In order to fulfil their social contract of serving the educational needs of their communities, community colleges should offer thriving honors programs for their gifted students, especially in Appalachia, where other opportunities can be severely limited.