"I'm not like everyone else": A qualitative analysis of the graduate school process for nontraditional female doctoral students
Sessanna, Beverly A.
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of unanticipated life events on the graduate school process and progress of a sample of former nontraditional female doctoral students. The study employed a qualitative design, presenting a story about women from their perspectives. The qualitative methodology of the study gave participants the opportunity to describe their feelings and reactions, providing a rich account of their experiences. The primary goal of the study was to gain insight and understanding into the experiences of former nontraditional female doctoral students from their perspectives and discover what barriers or obstacles they encountered, as well as what supports they found. All of the study participants experienced unanticipated life events and juggled multiple responsibilities during graduate school, causing a great deal of stress and anxiety. A primary effect of unanticipated life events was increased time to completion of graduate school. Nontraditional female doctoral students received support primarily from close friends or colleagues. When women received departmental support, it was primarily the support of one or two advisors or professors, often in a mentorship role. Most of the participants felt that their departments were not particularly understanding or supportive of the needs and experiences of nontraditional female doctoral students. The results of the study will be used to generate a better understanding and awareness of nontraditional female doctoral students' experiences and to provide suggestions and ideas for improving the doctoral experience for future students.