Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Winkler, Christa

Committee Member

Baham, Tracey

Committee Member

Molina, Danielle K.

Committee Member

Moyen, Eric A.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Educational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Education


Department of Counseling, Higher Education Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations


Student sense of belonging has been a topic of discussion for decades; however, senior student sense of belonging has not been looked at as closely as other groups of students. As seniors transition out of college, institutions must consider that these students become the alumni who contribute through alumni donations and share their experiences with future generations of students.

Looking at data from a single very high research college campus in a rural state, the study explored variables that relate to senior student sense of belonging. Using Ahn and Davis’s (2020a) 4 domains of student sense of belonging, variables were included that fit into the categories of academic engagement, social engagement, surroundings, and personal space, along with other student characteristics. The study uses student information attained through university data and responses to NSSE survey items to explore what items impacted students’ response to feeling a sense of belonging based on 3 NSSE survey items related to sense of belonging that were introduced in the 2020 version of the survey. Data from three linear regressions showed the significance of 16 independent variables using a stepwise approach. Data showed that there were 2 variables that were significant in all 3 models: students reporting that they would choose the same institution again and students’ overall evaluation of their experiences. The data showed a wholistic picture of what relates to senior student sense of belonging cannot be determined using the variables in this study. The authors suggest that a qualitative approach would be needed to learn more about how the variables in this study and additional variables impact sense of belonging for senior students.