Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Kenda Grover

Committee Member

David Deggs

Second Committee Member

Teresa Ray


gender studies, higher education, identity development, LGBTQ+ Students, mentorship, sexual identity


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the ways in which LGBTQ+ students at the University of Miami make meaning of their shared experiences in the LGBTQ+ Mentorship Program that the university offers, in order to explore ways in which higher education institutions might consider better supporting this key group of students. This study draws upon a variety of theories of sexual identity development, building on the work of Rosario et al. (2011) in looking at the ways that students make meaning of their sexual identity based on self-identification, association with the larger community, and engagement in a variety of LGBTQ+ activities. Drawing on a phenomenological approach pioneered at the University of Tennessee, as described by Thomson & Pollio (2002), this study offered participants in the mentorship program the opportunity to engage in semi-structured interviews and reflect on their experiences in the program and the ways in which that experience intersected with their lives as students and young professionals, and their identities as queer individuals. Through meaning unit analysis, the participants identified six themes: the overall importance and benefit of participation in the program to them as LGBTQ+ students, the challenges they face as LGBTQ+ students that the program helped them navigate, the importance of exposure to LGBTQ+ role models & elders in the program, a conversely reciprocal relationship between the centrality of the program with LGBTQ+ identity and the amount of time they have been out, the importance of exposure to the LGBTQ+ community and meeting other LGBTQ+ students in the program, and the importance of the Program Director to their experience in the program.