Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Kathleen Peno


Higher education institutions are typically designed for residential students (Attewell & Lavin, 2012; Jacoby, 2015), even though the majority of students at four-year colleges and universities commute to their campuses (Horn & Nevill, 2006). One part of the higher education structure is the co-curricular experience, and is a way for students to develop a sense of belonging on campus, which leads to positive outcomes like self-actualization and persistence (Strayhorn, 2012, 2019). Greek-letter organizations are one aspect of the co-curricular experience, yet are also typically designed with residential students in mind. These organizations, however, have been present at primarily commuter institutions and admitted commuter students for decades (Heida, 1986), yet very few studies have examined the experience of commuter students in Greek-letter organizations (e.g., Yearwood & Jones, 2012), and none have done so using qualitative research. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the experience of commuter students in Greek-letter organizations at primarily commuter public institutions, using sense of belonging as a conceptual framework.

Nine alumni who were commuter students in Greek-letter organizations from four primarily commuter public higher education institutions were interviewed for this study. The primary research question for this study was: How do alumni who were commuter students and members of Greek-letter organizations at primarily commuter public institutions describe their member experience? Secondary research questions were: What comprised the experience of belonging for these alumni? What, if anything, lead to or detracted from their sense of belonging? And how, if at all, did their membership contribute to their sense of belonging on campus?

To answer these questions, I engaged in semi-structured interviews with the participants, and analyzed the data using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). Four themes arose from the data: (1) seeking to belong, (2) personal connections, (3) welcoming and accepting members, and (4) belonging beyond the chapter. Using the findings, I developed recommendations for chapters and alumni advisors, college and university administrators, and Greek-letter organization national headquarters.



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