Connecting The Dots: Social Capital and the College-Going Beliefs of Rural Appalachian Students
Amanda Butz

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Kentucky

Primary Discipline

Educational Psychology
First-generation students (i.e., students whose parents have not attended a four-year college) and students of lower socioeconomic status often prepare for postsecondary education without the benefit of college information provided by their families (Lundberg, 2007). This lack of information can result in lower levels of college-access for those students who might benefit most from a college education. Although this lack of information has been identified as a problem in the literature, few researchers have sought to understand how potential first-generation college students might go about obtaining the necessary information for a successful transition to college. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between students’ college information networks (i.e., those individuals with whom students talk about college) and students’ beliefs about college (i.e., college-going self-efficacy and educational aspirations). Participants will be middle and high school students from a rural Appalachian school district in eastern Kentucky (n = 500). Information on students’ college information networks will be collected to better understand the relationship among first-generation college students’ access to social capital (i.e., information and resources acquired through social ties), their college-going self-efficacy, and their educational aspirations. Findings will be interpreted within the framework of social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 1997) and capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986). A better understanding of the availability of college information to potential first-generation college students will help researchers and practitioners to design interventions that could help to increase college attendance and persistence among first-generation students and other at-risk populations.
About Amanda Butz
Amanda Butz is a doctoral candidate in the department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Amanda serves as the graduate student coordinator for the Motivation and Achievement in Rural Appalachia project (MARA), which investigates contextual factors that influence student motivation and achievement. Her current research interests involve exploring the relationship between potential first-generation college students’ information networks and their college-going beliefs. In addition, Amanda has conducted research on the sources of self-efficacy in mathematics and reading. She has previously served as the graduate research assistant for both the P20 Motivation and Learning Lab under the direction of Dr. Ellen L. Usher and the Robinson Scholars Program, which serves first-generation college students from eastern Kentucky. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Amanda obtained an MA in Adult and Higher Education from Morehead State University.

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