Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Amber Dumford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tonisha Lane, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jose Zayas-Castro, Ph.D.


Caribbean, connectedness, diversity, inclusion, persistence, student success


Understanding how the experiences, perceptions, and culturally engaging campus environments build a sense of belonging and persistence among first-year dual-enrolled college students in a unique and diverse nation in the Western Caribbean (Greater Antilles) is an area of inquiry that had yet to be researched prior to this study. Using a case study qualitative research approach that included 10 individual semi-structured interviews, document elicitation of three university advertised campus events posts, and one focus group session, participants shared their experiences and perceptions of being a first-year dual-enrolled student and to what extent their campus’ environments influenced their sense of belonging. The conceptual framework that guided this study was the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Model by Dr. Samuel Museus which focuses on the sense of belonging of diverse students based on the culturally engaging environments at their university. Data from this study was analyzed using thematic analysis through the lens of the CECE Model.

The four major themes that emerged during the analysis of data for this study included: (1) Navigating the first-year was difficult and required adjustment; (2) Services and resources available to students were pivotal to building a sense of belonging; (3) Influences of campus life propelled their thinking and engagement to a higher level; and (4) Sense of belonging was formed in different ways, yet sparked validation and persistence. Included in the study are sub-themes that provide context to the major themes. Based on the themes that emerged during analysis, the findings of the study were consistent with past and current researchers who focused on various influences and elements that affect student success, especially in first-year college students.

Findings also revealed that participants perceived that their university did have adequate culturally engaging campus environments in conjunction with their individual experiences that played a role in their sense of belonging and desire to persist in their studies. From a policy, practice and theory development perspective, this study emphasized the need for key stakeholders to engage in conversations on policies that deal with dual-enrolled students to ensure that there are not barriers that may restrict the student or university; that there are areas that the university could consider as a means of enhancing the campus environments and overall student experiences and perceptions; as well as understanding the uniqueness of the Cayman Islands and the transferability of United States based theories and frameworks as guiding research for this research. This study also postulates the tweaking of the framework to the specificities of the Cayman Islands.