Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Delores McNair

First Committee Member

James D. Lee

Second Committee Member

Joanna Royce-Davis

Third Committee Member

Linda Webster


College for many adults represents a time for increasing independence, autonomy, and self-exploration. Yet the college experience may also be a time when students discover the presence of a psychological disorder, or navigate how to grapple with an existing disorder in the new and unfamiliar environment of college. An increasing number of students with such disorders are enrolling and participating in higher education yet current literature is often insufficient to adequately guide and inform postsecondary institution personnel regarding this complex student population (Beamish, 2005). Therefore, this phenomenological study aimed to discover the lived experience of a small sample of students with psychological disorders at one public university in the Western United States. Participants' reports of identity processes and classroom learning experiences were investigated through the combined lens of ldentity Theory and the Seven Vectors of Student Development. Study findings suggest (1) there is a pervasive yet varying effect of stigma on participants' identity and impression management behaviors, (2) crises resolution pertaining to seeking help and forming relationships associates with identity development, (3) student-role prominence may influence help-· seeking behavior offering possible implications for student college persistence, (4) reconceptualizing psychological disorders may contribute to more positive self-concepts, (5) "sympathetic others" play a part in fostering a positive classroom emotional climate and relationship trust and building, and finally, (6) stigma (and concomitant inclinations to prove oneself) prompt participant classroom participation yet outward signs of professor and classmate discrimination stifle participant classroom participation.



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