Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Norman St. Clair


Lisa Kirkpatrick


Sandy McMakin


Research Focus

The purpose of the study was to understand the academic needs, desires, and expectations of Generation Z in relation to their college experience as perceived by educational professionals. Colleges and universities may experience diminishing enrollment and possible closures if college administrators fail to address the needs and expectations of Generation Z students. Generation Z is entering college with a set of different expectations from their predecessors and it will be important for university administrators to understand this generation in order to attract and retain them. Pearson (2013) encouraged university administrators to take the time to identify their market segment and to develop a plan to serve them. University officials will continue to face new challenges in meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student body and fulfilling an expansive institutional mission (Blake, 2007).

According to Blake (2007), these challenges include demographic changes that will continue to occur within the larger society and colleges will be expected to provide more creative ways of serving their students.

Generation Z will enter into college in the fall of 2018; research has shown that that their expectations are different and it is important for university administrators to understand them in order to attract and retain them. The researcher sought to answer the following research questions:

  1. What do teachers, counselors and administrators identify as effective strategies and services that foster student academic success?
    1. What are some of the more effective practices for working with Generation Z and why?
    2. What are some ineffective practices for working with Generation Z and why?
    3. What do teachers, counselors and administrators identify as the expectations of Generation Z about their college experience? And, why do they perceive these to be their expectations?

Research Methods

This qualitative study followed an interpretive design inquiry utilizing narrative inquiry protocol as the data collection methodology. The researcher followed interpretive design inquiry and narrative inquiry protocols because they aligned with the conceptual framework. Both the narrative inquiry protocol and the conceptual framework are stage-oriented positing that individuals move through time and are influenced by their environments. Narrative inquiry protocol provides first person accounts of the experiences that are in story format and have a beginning, middle and end. The protocol examined the story three dimensionally in terms of interaction, continuity and situation (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Six participants were interviewed twice, using semi-structured interviews. In the first interview, participants were guided by an interview protocol which asked a series of questions related to their experiences as educators working with students and parents of this generation. During the second interview the participants were asked a second series of questions and member checks were completed to ensure accurate information was gathered during the first interview (Marshall & Rossman, 2011; Merriam, 2009).

Three layers were incorporated to analyze the data that were gathered from the interviews. The main data analysis technique was Yin’s (2011) five phases of analysis. The second layer of analysis used Merriam’s (2002) recommendation of analyzing the data while transcribing. The final layer of analysis followed Spradley’s (1980) steps for creating a domain analysis to help connect the field notes and observations in the compiling phase.

Research Results/Findings

The findings were shared by first identifying the factors that impacted the development of the student and contributed to their overall school experience. These factors created eight major categories by which the conversations flowed: (1) Expectations, (2) Norms, (3) Student Welfare, (4) Campus Safety, (5) Parental Involvement, (6) Learning Styles, (7) Technology, and (8) Student Characteristics. The first level of categories was based on comments that connected to the larger overarching themes of the student experience at school. After completing a second round of interviews with all participants, the researcher went back to steps 1-3 of Yin’s (2011) five phases of analysis. From here the researcher was able to drill down into the categories through the participant statements and identified five themes. The themes are student well-being, technology, parent involvement, flexible classroom modalities, and campus safety.

Conclusions from Research

For higher education professionals working with Generation Z students the following conclusions were made in association with the purpose statement and the focus of the inquiry as gathered from the participant interviews: (1) Universities must take the time to research and understand Generation Z in order to prepare and be a Generation Z ready college; (2) Universities must find a way to engage parents as partners in order to foster student academic success; (3) Universities should research, review, analyze, and implement academic services and tools that support student success across the student experience for this generation; and (4) Universities need to identify service models that provide support for overall student well-being.