Open Access
Bailey, April Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 12, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Daniele D Flannery, Committee Member
  • Senel Poyrazli, Committee Member
  • Stephen Patrick Schappe, Committee Member
  • Heather L Stuckey, Committee Member
  • Ian E Baptiste, Committee Member
  • adult students
  • business students
  • first-year seminar
  • student transitions and adjustment
  • undergraduate business programs
  • action research
The purpose of this action research study was to explore the transitional experiences of adult business students during their return to higher education through an adapted first-year seminar course. This study addressed a gap in the literature of adult business students in the first-year seminar research and explored the importance of tailoring a first-year seminar course to adult student needs. The study participants were seven returning business students who enrolled in a special summer offering of the BSN101 Foundations of Business Administration course focused on designing a curriculum that is relevant to the adult student’s needs. The study objectives were to understand the reasons for the students’ return to college and to examine the participants’ learning, adjustment to university life, and personal development through the course. The findings from the study addressed four major themes. First, the primary reason adult students were returning to an undergraduate business program was for advancement in their careers. Second, the participants found that they were feeling fearful, mentioned their age, and were showing signs of low self-esteem and low self-efficacy about their ability to return to college. However, through the first-year seminar course, BSN101, the students began to feel more positively about their decision to return to college and also felt a sense of belonging with the other adult business students in the class. Third, the action research process allowed students to be actively engaged in the collaborative research project and gave them a sense of appreciation for each other’s experiences, which assisted in students’ learning, adjustment to university life, and personal development. Fourth, the students were having difficulty balancing life roles and often through the course mentioned times of conflict and how important support from family, employers, faculty, and administrators was in their coping with the added stress of retuning to college. Primary recommendations are that universities should pay attention to the needs of adult students, such as extending hours for administrative offices, having an adult student advocate, introducing new students to key administrative personnel, and taking into consideration their lived experience by tailoring the first-year orientation program. This study contributes to the fields of higher education and adult education by sharing the importance of engaging students in faculty-student activities and paying attention to the participants who voiced changes to be made to universal, traditionally designed first-year seminar programs.