Date of Award

Fall 11-19-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Joseph Stetar, Ph.D

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D

Committee Member

Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D


First-Year Experience, Perceptions, Sense of Belonging



Student affairs professionals view the first-year experience as a beneficial program that assists college students with their academic and personal development. While there have been many qualitative studies (Meyer, Spencer, & French, 2009; Stebleton, Jensen, & Peter, 2010; Corella, 2010) and quantitative studies (Hendel, 2007; Woolsey & Miller, 2009; Morrow & Ackerman, 2012) regarding first-year experience programs, much of this research has focused on retention instead of how students’ experiences can be affected by their sense of belonging to their particular institution.

The purpose of this study was to investigate students’ perceptions of their first-year experience in relation to support they receive from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, business, design, and technology connected to the fashion industry. Through qualitative methods, I interviewed 30 students (10 first-years, 10 second-years, and 10 third-years) of the approximately 2,300 undergraduates who live on FIT’s campus in Manhattan (Fashion Institute of Technology, 2013).

The results from this study have indicated FIT needs to improve relationships within the campus community, augment communicative support to its students regarding its programs and services, and seek input from students about the services they feel would increase their sense of belonging and improve their experience. Establishing, implementing, and evaluating this first-year experience program will be an extensive endeavor that will take time; however, this program could lead to improved student satisfaction with FIT, which could increase students’ sense of belonging and support.