Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Laura Hallberg

First Committee Member

Rod P. Githens

Second Committee Member

Martin Martinez


Underemployment has a rich and lengthy body of literature spanning across multiple disciplines, such as economics, business, psychology, and sociology. Past scholars studying the phenomenon have provided a framework for understanding underemployment and have identified the harm it has on organizations and individuals. Although underemployment is not a new phenomenon, gaps are present in understanding how it affects first-generation, Hmong graduates. This study provides a framework for bridging this gap. As such, this study answered three questions related to how underemployed, first-generation, Hmong college graduates describe their experience finding adequate employment after graduation, perceive the relationship between their personal upbringing and their education that effected their underemployment, and their challenges in regard to underemployment.

The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of underemployed, first-generation, Hmong college graduates and their perceptions of the primary factors affecting or influencing their underemployment. To achieve that goal, the researcher employed a generic qualitative methodology to examine the experiences of four first-generation Hmong graduates. Four umbrella themes emerged from study: 1) the practical disconnection between college and workforce application; 2) social capital inequality; 3) upbringing and underemployment connection; and 4) the reality of being underemployed as a first-generation Hmong graduate. With context supporting these themes, the researcher concluded with implications for action by suggesting strategies to innovate the college academic experience and academic support programs, as well as bring awareness to the Hmong community about underemployment.