Investigating the tension between persistence and well-being in engineering doctoral programs

Kanembe Shanachilubwa, Gabriella Sallai, Catherine G.P. Berdanier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: While studies examining graduate engineering student attrition have grown more prevalent, there is an incomplete understanding of the plight faced by persisting students. As mental health and well-being crises emerge in graduate student populations, it is important to understand how students conceptualize their well-being in relation to their decisions to persist or depart from their program. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this article is to characterize the well-being of students who endured overwhelming difficulties in their doctoral engineering programs. The PERMA-V framework of well-being theory proposes that well-being is a multifaceted construct comprised of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, and vitality. Design/Method: Data were collected in a mixed-methods research design through two rounds of qualitative semistructured interviews and a survey-based PERMA-V profiling instrument. Interview data were analyzed thematically using the PERMA-V framework as an a priori coding schema and narrative configuration and analysis. Results: The narratives demonstrated the interconnectedness between the different facets of well-being and how they were influenced by various experiences the participants encountered. The participants in this study faced prolonged and extreme adversity. By understanding how the multiple dimensions of well-being theory manifested in their narratives, we better understood and interpreted how these participants chose to persist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-612
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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