Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education (PhD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Michael Miller

Committee Member

Michael Hevel

Second Committee Member

Leslie Jo Shelton


faith and sexuality, faith-based college, identity development, LGBTQIA


This qualitative study aimed to explore the experiences of LGBTQIA+ alumnix who attended faith-based colleges. The study was guided by Strayhorn’s (2019) College Students’ Sense of Belonging Theory and Abes’ et al. (2007) Reconceptualized model of multiple dimensions of identity. The scope of experiences explored was narrowed to three of the five categories in Schreiner’s (2010a) Thriving Quotient. These categories were: positive perspective (outlook on life), social connectedness, and diverse citizenship.

The study included 11 participants from 7 faith-based colleges and represented various intersections of sexual and gender identity. The study employed constructivist grounded theory methodology, an inductive research approach which seeks to embrace the pre-existing realities and experiences that both the research and the participants bring to the research process. This method also recognizes the unique reality that is also constructed during the research process itself. The data in the study were collected through semi-structured interviews and were analyzed using open, focused, and theoretical coding.

The result of the study was an emergent theory on the experiences of LGBTQIA+ alumnix at faith-based colleges. This theory described how these experiences were both the “same” as majority population experiences and “different.” Similarities included a prioritization of academics and a desire for success, the importance of connections with faculty and peers, and a broadening of perspective when open to experiencing difference. Differences included the presence of fear and anxiety due to institutional behavioral codes, finding belonging outside the bounds of institutional policies, and feelings of betrayal by the institution in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.