Women graduates' academic resilience and their personal strategies for doctoral success

Alice S Culpepper, Florida International University


This study explores women's perceptions of what made them successful doctoral students and what strategies they used to cope and succeed in the academic environment of an off-campus program in South Florida. The study's theoretical framework was built on Bandura's (1997) theory regarding ways self-efficacy influences choices made and effort expended; and Gilligan (1982), Belenky et al. (1986) and other feminists' theories concerning how women learn. The study included data obtained from individual, semi-structured interviews with 10 participants, documents spanning the 10 years of the program and interviews with founding faculty members. For each, academic resilience was built on (a) viewing that working on the degree was personally fulfilling; (b) believing she possessed a strong sense of academic confidence; (c) priding herself on having self discipline; (d) seeing herself as a role model; and (e) being motivated by a personal or career goal. Strategies the participants used to overcome roadblocks included (a) time management—finding time for personal, professional, and academic duties; (b) focus—making the dissertation a priority; (c) collaboration—utilizing both personal and programmatic assistance; (d) and advocacy—acting on their individual needs. Results of the study indicated that the program at the satellite campus provided structural resources that satisfied basic needs and strengthened the students' self-efficacy. This helped them become successful doctoral graduates. The women had personal fortitude and strong self-efficacy to complete the doctoral journey. They understood that their success was primarily based on the support they received from people: families, peers, and their major professors. Participants suggested that successful women students ascertain whether they have time and resources to devote to an extended study, an understanding family, and the resilience to overcome roadblocks along the way.

Subject Area

Higher education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Culpepper, Alice S, "Women graduates' academic resilience and their personal strategies for doctoral success" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3165156.