Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Deborah Faye Carter

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Linda Perkins

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Gwen Garrison

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2021 Alana J Olschwang


Student success, Hispanic/Latino students, Black/African American students, retention, belonging, involvement, engagement, GPA, transition, sociocultural engagement, bandwidth recovery, COVID-19, validation

Subject Categories

Educational Leadership | Higher Education


The goal of this study was to examine retention for first-year students who attended a large, public Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). The study examined the extent that belonging influenced involvement and engagement, and the relationship to retention. This was in the context of COVID with the pandemic, social and political unrest, and an emergency remote format for teaching impacting student experiences. The conceptual framework was influenced by theories including validation, belonging, mattering, sociocultural engagement, natural growth, and community cultural wealth. The study included secondary data analysis from the Fall 2019 National Survey of Student Engagement and institutional data for grade point average, units attempted, units earned, and retention from fall to fall. Specifically, this study proposed that students with high levels of belonging more likely to become involved and engaged. The survey items for each of the factors were highly rated and correlated. However, these factors were not significant predictors of retention. Instead, high school GPA predicted cumulative GPA which predicted retention. For Hispanic/Latino students, an interaction between belonging and engagement did predict cumulative GPA, but not for Black/African American students. Combining descriptive and inferential statistics and disaggregating subgroups revealed that the most significant challenge and best lever for success was passing more classes. The study may provide useful information for HSI campuses toward resource allocation efforts for student support and retention.