Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Services and Leadership


College of Education


Kerrigan, Monica Reid

Committee Member 1

Rose, Steven

Committee Member 2

Wassell, Beth


Agency, Anxiety, Connection, English Language Learner, Identity, Phenemonology


Community college students; Underprepared college students


Community College Leadership | Higher Education


A primary tenet of community colleges is open access. However, offering open access and ensuring completion are two different matters, especially for students who may not be as college ready as others. One group of students are English Language Learner (ELL) who, apart from all the other challenges new college students must face, have the added challenges of adapting to a new language and culture and the ensuing anxiety those challenges create. In order to understand the meaning these students make of experiences with anxiety, a hermeneutical phenomenological study following van Manen's (2014) methodology was conducted with five ELL participants from a community college ESL program. Their experiences with anxiety stem largely from a lack of English fluency which resulted in a diminished sense of their identity as college students, a tendency to self-isolate from their classmates and professors, and an inability to seek and receive timely support. Despite the danger that this cycle of anxiety creates, these students persevered in large part due to their determination to succeed. Implications for theory, practice, and policy from this study demonstrate the need to holistically support ELL students through enhanced engagement in pedagogy and advising, as well as a deeper consideration for ELL students' academic and career goals.