Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Annemarie Vaccaro


Almost five million college students in the United States have child dependents (U.S. Department of Education, 2015), but little is known about the experience of pregnancy in college. This qualitative study addressed this gap in scholarship. A feminist intersectional theoretical framework and a feminist interpretive phenomenology methodology were used to explore the experiences of ten women from three institutions of higher education who were currently pregnant or recently pregnant. Most participants identified as low-income or working-class women of color. The phenomenological goal of this study was to learn about each woman’s lived experience of pregnancy in college toward identifying commonalities among participants (Creswell & Poth, 2017; van Manen, 2014). Using a feminist intersectional theoretical framework, this study also sought to explore pregnancy in college as it is experienced within the patriarchal and hegemonic contexts of higher education (Acker, 2000). This theoretical lens further aimed to explore pregnancy in college among women who hold multiple intersecting social identities (Crenshaw, 1989; hooks, 2000; Lorde, 2007; Yuval-Davis, 2006).

Two overarching themes emerged from this study. The first theme is the “Common experience of pregnancy in college,” which is comprised of six subthemes. The second theme is “Pregnancy in college as an intersectional experience,” which includes two subthemes. This dissertation concludes with a discussion of the findings in the context of current scholarship. Recommendations are made for future research and for higher education policy and practice toward creating a more inclusive and equitable experience for pregnant college students.



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