Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jane Jorgenson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Aubrey Huber, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.


honors college, organizational communication, sensemaking, socialization


Starting college marks an important period of transition for young people, as they manage multiple changes at once and begin to establish identities independent from their parents. The first year college student experience has been the focus of a great deal of academic research, as scholars and practitioners seek to discover the best way to support students and ensure they remain successfully enrolled at the university. However, very little of this research attends to the specific experiences of Honors College students. Further, a focus on the communicative process of transitioning, or organizational socialization, may add to what is currently known. This study expands existing scholarship by taking a meaning-centered approach to investigate how new honors students experience the transition to college. Data for this project was collected through photo-elicitation interviews with 21 first-year Honors College students enrolled at the University of South Florida. While narrating their first-year experiences through their own images of three key contexts of college life, honors students presented idealized images of themselves as successful. These idealized presentations shaped an “Honors College Student” identity linked to successfully representing the values of the organization and engaging in strategic self-presentations to validate their membership in the organization. When disruptions occurred, students maintained their identities of success by communicating resilience. These findings create a nuanced view of the organizational socialization experience, explicating specific ways in which honors students work to construct identities throughout the extended transition of the first year in college.