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Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership

The Lived experiences of Nontraditional, First-generation Students Who Pursue a Visual Art Major: A Phenomenological Inquiry

Abstract: College education for all, diverse representation in art, and innovation in the workplace is beneficial to the economic and social success of our country.  However, first-generation students are not likely to be successful college students or successful art students.  They face many challenges including reduced exposure to art and lower self-confidence, which is required in a competitive art classroom.  This phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of nine non-traditionally aged, first-generation students who achieved at least a baccalaureate degree in fine art or design.  Through interviews and personal journal entries, their stories were examined, and it appears that time allowed them to develop the tools needed to be a successful college art student, including confidence.  This confidence was built over time through life experiences and artistic practice.  Throughout this study, all of the participants had three things in common: 1) they were determined, 2) they had artistic ability, and 3) they had confidence to be a successful art student.  Understanding these three qualities of the successful nontraditional, first-generation art student benefits educators in serving similar students.  It also helps the community understand the value of supporting art programs, and helps future students in preparation for college as an art student.  More research needs to be done, including quantitative analysis to determine the scope of the problem, qualitative inquiries into comparable groups to better understand the impact of parameters such as age or artistic ability, as well as studies that reveal a deeper understanding of the art classroom experiences.