Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Higher Education (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


James O. Hammons

Committee Member

Ketevan Mamiseishvilli

Second Committee Member

Daniel Kissinger


Education, First-year experience, Living-learning program, Skill development


The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of students and faculty involved in a living-learning first-year experience program at a small, liberal arts institution about developing skills for life-long learning including critical thinking, written communication, and reflection and engagement across disciplines. The researcher conducted a qualitative case study including focus groups with students and interviews with faculty involved with the first-year experience program. Three focus groups with a total of 19 student participants and individual interviews with 11 faculty participants were conducted. Interviews and focus groups were digitally recorded and then the researcher listened to each session multiple times to discern common themes and direct quotes.

The findings demonstrated that: (a) Students felt that their critical thinking and written communication skills were positively influenced through the program. (b) Students felt that the attempt to enhance reflection and engagement across disciplines through co-curricular programming was not as successful. (c) Relationships between peers and faculty were two of the most important aspects of the living-learning first-year experience program for students. (d) Faculty similarly felt that critical thinking and written communication skills were positively influenced. (e) Faculty differed from the student opinion on the program's impact on reflection and engagement across disciplines and felt that the co-curricular programming helped to positively influence the development of multi-disciplinary perspectives. Recommendations for improvements included a stronger focus on the relationship between student affairs staff and academic affairs, more intentionality for co-curricular programming, increased uniformity among first-year seminars, and improvements in marketing of the program to internal and external stakeholders.