Date of Award

Fall 11-22-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Marilou Ryder

Second Advisor

Donna O’Neil

Third Advisor

Alan Enomoto


Purpose: The purpose of this sequential exploratory mixed methods study was to identify and describe academic advisor behaviors that had the greatest impact on persistence perceived through the lens of students who were both pregnant and single mothers while enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at a 4-year nontraditional university. A secondary purpose of this study was to identify factors that pregnant and single mothers perceived to have impacted their persistence.

Methodology: The qualitative phase of this study consisted of one-on-one interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of single mothers who recently graduated from a 4-year nontraditional university. The interviews revealed the factors that impacted persistence and the academic advisor behaviors they perceived to have impacted their persistence. The quantitative phase of the study included an online survey, which allowed respondents to rank and assess ten identified academic advisor behaviors by perceived impact.

Findings: Analysis of the data revealed eight key findings. The loss of a job was most frequently referenced as a theme that hindered persistence, and the desire to be a role model or inspiration for their children was most frequently referenced as a theme that helped persistence. The academic advisor behavior that had the greatest impact on persistence was the advisor responding quickly and being easy to get a hold of.

Conclusions: Five conclusions were derived from the key findings and major findings. Continued employment and supportive relationships are critical components to aid persistence of single mothers. Single mothers have a strong sense of purpose and will overcome immense obstacles for their children. Because single mothers have busy lives, they need an academic advisor who is accessible and easy to reach. Lastly, single mothers need their academic advisor to provide them with additional resources.

Recommendations: Seven recommendations were identified including replication studies with larger sample sizes and different populations. Academic advisor behaviors supporting single mothers should be further explored from the perspective of the academic advisor. Additionally, factors that impact persistence should be further explored to understand how specific hardships or struggles throughout college may impact single mothers’ success.