Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Jaekel, Kathryn S.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


Student parents may feel invisible on college campuses, especially student mothers, who often feel ignored and overlooked when institutional policies and practices are not tailored to their needs and challenges. These students are especially vulnerable to withdrawing from college, even in institutional contexts that boast a positive and welcoming climate for underrepresented students. Using validation theory with a critical lens as the guiding theoretical framework, this qualitative case study examined how student mothers at one community college navigate barriers and supports within and outside of the institution. Findings revealed three themes, indicating that student mothers must cobble together a village of external support and, in some instances, have little to no support. Barriers often are layered and nuanced, with support sometimes operating as a barrier. In short, student mothers feel unseen and often perceive a lack of support at the institution. Recommendations include institutional acknowledgement and support of student mothers through data capture; creation of policies, practices, and programming that validate and support their needs; and professional development for faculty and staff that invites student mothers to share stories, concerns, and recommendations for the college.


143 pages




Northern Illinois University

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In Copyright

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NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type