Publication Date

Fall 2015

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Barbara Burch (Director), Kristin Wilson, and Alex Poole

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


With the influx of international students on American campuses, it is imperative that universities seek solutions to unique challenges surrounding their retention. More specifically, because women from Saudi Arabia are accustomed to highly-structured gendered practices in their home country that diametrically oppose those in the United States, they represent a sub-group within a sub-group of the often-generalized international students. Relatively few studies have been conducted regarding the academic persistence of specific groups of international students. The goal of this narrative analysis was to examine the salutogenic aspects of the persistence of Saudi women using Vincent Tinto’s (1997) revised model of student persistence. More specifically, this study explored the pre-entry characteristics of each participant, identified specific personal and institutional goals they set, sought to find how they academically and socially interacted and integrated, observed the extent to which they exerted mental effort and learning, and recognized how they persisted despite external commitments and individual challenges. This study utilized a narrative analysis approach to gather data pertaining to the stated goals and research questions. Utilizing a snowball sampling technique, the researcher gathered a list of women from Saudi Arabia who were progressing toward or had earned a bachelor’s degree at a public university in the mid-south in the United States; the list of participants grew as the research unfolded. Eleven women agreed to participate; each was interviewed using Seidman’s (2013) three-part interview structure in order to establish a focused narrative. Overall, the women in this study were successfully persisting at American universities despite specific challenges. Their pre-entry attributes, including the noted support of family members, laid a foundation for success at the university. Additionally, strongly-stated goals connected to success, earning a degree, and building a career emerged as important amongst the participants. The participants academically and socially integrated; however, all experienced isolation on both fronts. The extent to which they exerted effort in academic pursuits became a clear part of success. Despite fierce commitment to various external commitments, the women were successfully persisting or had successfully persisted at an American university.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | International and Comparative Education