Graduation Year




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Arthur P. Bochner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Shawn Bingham, Ph.D.


autoethnography, family research, first-generation college students, identity negotiation, social class, working-class


This dissertation explores one white working-class family’s hopes, fears, illusions, and tensions related to social mobility. I tell stories from my experiences as a first-generation college student, including: ethnographic fieldwork; interviews with my family, community members, and former teachers; and narratives from other working-class academics to provide an in-depth, evocative, and relational look at mobility. I explore the roots of vulnerability in my family and how I was socialized into understanding belonging and worthiness in particular ways, and how this socialization influences my feelings of belonging and worthiness in the academy. The goal of this research is bridging – past and present selves, working-class and academic cultures, work and family – for me and my family and other first-generation students and their families.