Navigating the journey: A case study of participants in a dissertation support program

Lois Anita MacNamara, University of Pennsylvania


U.S. Department of Education statistics indicate that 40,774 doctoral degrees were conferred by Title IV eligible, degree-granting institutions in 2001 (NSF). Of these, 15%, or 6,324 doctorates were in the field of education—the second largest percentage of all disciplines—exceeded only by the social sciences and psychology at 17%. While there are no national statistics to indicate the number of doctoral students who do not complete their degrees, institutional studies suggest that the attrition rate is approximately 50%. This study seeks to understand the experiences and perspectives of participants in The Jump Start Program, a collaborative venture developed in the spring of 2001 by the Graduate School of Education and the Departments of Counseling and Learning Resources to assist a cohort of doctoral students in completing their dissertation proposals by May of 2003. The program included a series of workshops to help students develop a plan of action; to update their library research skills; and the option of participating in dissertation working groups led by a trained facilitator. Twenty-four or 44% of the 54 students who were eligible registered for in the Jump Start program in the spring of 2001. Using a qualitative research approach to address these research questions, my data includes (1) interviews with Jump Start participants, faculty advisors, program co-directors and working group facilitators; (2) the results of participant surveys and evaluations; (3) observations of the dissertation working groups from March through July 2002; and (4) institutional data from 1990–2002. This study suggests possible alternative models for the dissertation advising experience, and speaks to the need for proactive, institutional support of dissertation students. Student affairs administrators may consider expanding and enhancing their role in providing services, programs and resources for dissertation students. Findings may also have implications for the enhancement of student satisfaction; institutional reputation; recruitment efforts and alumni relations.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

MacNamara, Lois Anita, "Navigating the journey: A case study of participants in a dissertation support program" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3084866.