Term of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


College of Education

Committee Chair

Steven Tolman

Committee Member 1

Elise Cain

Committee Member 2

Cordelia Zinskie


This study explored the extent to which a subset of students who matriculated post-consolidation at the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University felt they belong at their institution. Using an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, this study used a survey to examine general feelings of belonging and the influencing factors for belonging while presenting individual narratives collected from semi-structured interviews for eight students’ experiences. The data collected in this study revealed that significant differences exist in critical factors of sense of belonging based on race, gender, and LGBTQ+ identity. Additionally, data showed the importance of academic, social, and campus-community belonging with faculty relationships, peer friendships, and a strong campus culture and identity emerging as critical to overall belonging. Study participants revealed that intercampus dynamics impact how they perceive consolidation to affect their experiences and that campus identity emerges as more important than institutional identity. This study fills a gap in the literature as limited research exists on the impact of HEI consolidations on students, especially regarding sense of belonging. When considering and implementing future consolidations, HEI leadership must consider the implications for student belonging to mitigate attrition and enrollment drops and ensure they complete their educational mission of helping students meet their fullest potential.

Research Data and Supplementary Material