Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


King, Stephanie B.

Committee Member

Johnson, Mitzy

Committee Member

Coats, Linda T.

Committee Member

Fincher, Mark Edward

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Community College Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Educational Leadership


Community college students are often excluded from persistence studies due to the unique characteristics of community colleges and its students. Recent studies have heavily relied on retention models that do not adequately account for the role individual and campus culture plays in students’ persistence decisions. Using Museus’ (2014) Culturally Engaging Campus Environment (CECE) model, this cross-sectional, correlational study examined the impact of campus environment perceptions and sense of belonging on the persistence decisions of students at a rural community college in the southeastern part of the U.S. Correlation analyses were conducted to investigate the relationships between two independent variables, campus environment perceptions and sense of belonging, and one dependent variable, students’ persistence decisions. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine if differences in campus environment perceptions and sense of belonging existed between racial and gender identity groups. Lastly, a t-test was conducted to examine differences between residential and commuter students. Utilizing the CECE Survey for Community Colleges (Museus et al., 2017), a total of 234 responses were analyzed. The results revealed that students are more likely to persist when they have a positive perception of the campus environment. It also revealed that students were more likely to persist when they possessed a strong sense of belonging. Upon examining differences of campus environment perceptions, the results showed that gender identity influenced campus environment perceptions and race influenced sense of belonging among students. There was insufficient evidence to establish differences of campus environment perceptions and sense of belonging among residential and commuter students. Limitations regarding this study included its generalizability due to the low number of survey responses and the physical aspect of campus environment and campus culture. Recommendations for policymakers and practitioners include consideration for community memberships, increase campus support for underrepresented groups, and cultural competency for training. Recommendations for future research include the use of different theoretical frameworks to understand student persistence, continued studies involving community colleges, inclusive campus environment perceptions and sense of belonging studies, and qualitative studies on campus environment perceptions and sense of belong of community college students.