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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Kysa Nygreen

Second Advisor

Ryan Wells

Third Advisor

Thomas Juravich

Subject Categories

Educational Sociology | Higher Education | Inequality and Stratification | Rural Sociology


In a country that once was 95% rural in the late 1700s, only 19.3% of the population of the United States now live in rural areas (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). The shift in population from rural to urban areas is not simply demographic; it imbues a shift in who and what matters. Only 13.6% of adults over 25 in Appalachian Kentucky have earned bachelor's degrees, 18.9% below the national average (Appalachian Regional Commission, 2016). This phenomenological study seeks to understand how rural, first generation, low income college students from Appalachian Kentucky experience a sense of belonging in their first year of college and how their understanding of their place identity impacts their belonging to both their institutions and their home communities. Through interviews and photographs, the students reveal how they developed a college going identity, the ways they belong and the tensions they felt with belonging at their colleges and universities, and how they experienced a place identity as Appalachian.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.