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Publication Date

Spring 2010

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Deanna L. Fassett


critical, first-generation college student, graduate school, social capital, social support

Subject Areas

Communication; Education; Higher


This thesis examines the stresses of graduate school that lead to burnout and the ways in which first-generation college students who attend graduate school seek social support to mitigate these stresses. Six ethnographic interviews of first-generation college students enrolled in master's degree programs were conducted. Of the 6, 3 were men and 3 were women; 4 were from the social sciences, 1 was from science, and 1 was from engineering. 3 were graduate teaching associates and 3 were not. The interviews revealed that these 6 students projected self-sufficiency, sometimes at the cost of needed social support. They stressed time management as a cause of frustration. Family members were sometimes approached for emotional support, but other graduate students served as a prime social support network. Suggestions are given for universities, departments, and students to improve access to social support.