Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Carla Smith, Ed.D.

Second Supervisor

Angela Rios, Ed.D.


The purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine how nontraditional students enrolled in community colleges perceive their internship experience from preenrollment to completion. While adult learning theory suggests that experiential learning is a good fit for nontraditional students, it is unknown to what degree nontraditional student characteristics interfere with their engagement in such, or if experiential learning improves nontraditional student persistence. Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) was utilized to understand the study participants’ lived experiences of internship participation as well as how, if at all, situational or institutional factors impacted their internship engagement. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with four nontraditional students who had completed a semester-long, paid internship while enrolled in community college in the northeastern United States. Several themes emerged as commonly shared by the participants. All four participants demonstrated a focus on career attainment as well as multiple examples of interrole conflict. Online access, flexibility in scheduling, and personal support were identified as key factors in interrole conflict mitigation. In addition, the value of gaining workplace experience and perception of enhanced employability were found to supersede other potential benefits of internship participation, for example compensation or credit accrual, for each study participant. Recommendations for future research include an exploration of internship and academic programs designed specifically for adult learners as well as a cost-benefit analysis of such programs. Additional research regarding online delivery of internship programs and related services is also recommended.

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