Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Matthew D. Davis, PhD


Lynn Beckwith, Jr.

kent Farnsworth

John Henschke

Carl Hoagland


This investigation is a study on the impact of a research-based holistic developmental retention plan for African American students who attend/attended a predominately White institution (PWI). The strategic praxis connected theoretical implications and student centered practices to enhance positive retention outcomes. This study examined the impact of these student centered retention offerings used in the Office of Multicultural Relations (MCR) at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). Founded in 1997, the expressed mission of MCR was to address the challenges of the University’s largest minority population, placing emphasis on the retention of its African American students. Two focus groups (graduate and undergraduate) were established; each provided transcribed contextual data which served as a foundational praxis of the research. The focus groups were homogenous and represented African American students who are/were actively engaged in the MCR holistic developmental retention design. Variables suggested by Tinto’s retention theory, Swail’s student centered model, and Jordan and Hartling’s relational-cultural theory were evidenced in the MCR focus groups’ analysis. The qualitative method included open and axial coding, which provided an examination comparison, and categorizing of the transcribed interview data. Thematic analysis of the coding allowed for recurring and emergent themes. An analysis of the transcribed data from the MCR focus groups suggested the consistency of a trusted relationship with the MCR counselor was most significant to the retention of African American students, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Leadership emerged as a theme connected to the relational praxis. Finally, sociological and psychological variables of retention theory emerged from the thematic analysis of the MCR focus groups; including feelings of security, enhanced self esteem and improved academic ability, acceptance, relationship building, having a voice, and a desire for leadership.

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