Student Perceptions of Doctoral Faculty Advisors and How They Support Motivation in an Online, Professional Doctorate Program

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership (EdD)

Committee Chair

Valerie Storey

Committee Member

Crissie Jameson

Committee Member

Rachel Althof


Student perceptions of Doctoral Faculty Advisors (DFAs) and how they support motivation in an online, Professional Doctorate (PD) program were investigated in this dissertation. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how DFAs support online doctoral student motivation to progress in their PD at a private, professionally-focused university. The conceptual framework of Tinto’s (1975, 2012) Student Integration Theory and Deci and Ryan’s (1985, 2012a, 2012b) Self-Determination Theory guided the investigation of several identified gaps in the literature relating to doctoral student attrition. Specifically, gaps in the literature directed additional research towards online, non-traditional, PD student perceptions of factors which contribute to their feelings of isolation and motivation, academic and social integration, student-faculty relationships, and faculty advising. Five themes emerged from 16 semi-structured interviews: (1) DFA-Student Pairing Process and Expectations, (2) Academic Integration, (3) Social Integration, (4) Motivation, and (5) Non-traditional Student Experience. Implications to practice were identified to improve services offered by DFAs at the university. One recommendation of this study was to increase the sample size. In addition, it was recommended that the study be replicated at similarly populated universities. Other recommendations were to explore student demographic correlations in the DFA-student relationship, DFA commitment, DFA perceptions, resiliency and its connection to the DFA-student relationship, and institutional program evaluations of offered services and programs to meet the needs of their student populations’ motivation. A final recommendation of this study was to include multiple research methods to increase triangulation. These recommendations will support the continued development of DFA-student relationships.