Zooming in : the impact of primary relationships on doctoral student persistence



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Doctoral students’ persistence may be viewed in the light of the relationship dynamic. This study illustrates the relationship dynamic and its potential impact on student persistence. Findings from the research shed light on the roles that primary relationships play in student persistence. In particular, there is evidence of positive and negative feedback loops in the mindmaps generated by the study. The findings reflect ways to go about interrupting a negative loop or creating/encouraging a positive loop, thereby increasing the rate of persistence. Such findings point to specific ways that representatives of an institution can work with students to increase persistence. The structure of a doctoral student’s program is similar from student to student. What is unique from student to student is how each one moves through the system with various experiences and reactions to those experiences concerning faculty support, the existence of a cohort, and the caring shown by those closest to the student: the inner circle. Most significant with regard to the findings is the relationship between roadblocks and persistence; specifically whether a student chose to let roadblocks impact persistence or if persistence cleared away those roadblocks, highlighting the importance of attitude, emotions, one’s locus of control, as well as relationships.