Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Orkideh Mohajeri, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jacqueline Hodes, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Karen Dickinson, Ph.D.


This mixed methods study explored ecological purpose development among graduating college students at a large, public university in the Mid-Atlantic, focusing on the influence of college and familial contexts. Using Bronfenbrenner and Morris’ (2007) Process-Person-Context-Time (PPCT) model as a framework, I undertook an explanatory sequential design (Creswell & Plano Clark 2017), assigning more weight to qualitative results (quan à QUAL). I collected quantitative survey data from 110 graduating students a college of liberal arts (consisting of Art and Design, Communication and Media, English, History, Languages and Cultures, Philosophy, Theatre and Dance, and Women’s and Gender Studies majors) and then purposefully selected eight individual participants for subsequent semi-structured interviews. Quantitative survey questions addressed demographics, degree of purpose, and purpose orientation (Bundick et al., 2006). Students who demonstrated both some degree of purpose and a strong leaning toward either a self-oriented (SO) or other-oriented (OO) sense of purpose were contacted for individual semi-structured interviews, adapted from Andrews et al.’s (2006) Youth Purpose Interview protocol. Inductive and deductive analysis techniques revealed four pathways to purpose (familial, collegiate, employment, and religious contexts) and four explicit factors influencing purpose development in familial and collegiate contexts (relationships with parents, grandparents, faculty members, and on-campus employment supervisors). Connections existed between student purpose orientation collected through quantitative surveying and student stories of purpose pathways collected through qualitative interviewing. The findings of the mixed methods study provide insight into future research and higher education policy and practice.