Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




College of Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Sheena Kauppila

Second Advisor

Kevin Gannon

Third Advisor

Heather Hagan


This dissertation presents the first known Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) investigation of how marginalized students are included in syllabi. This study fills a gap in the literature due to the changing demographic of college students, the absence of faculty who share these marginalized identities, the syllabus being the first point of contact with students, and syllabi studies not including student voices. There were two research questions: how do marginalized students understand themselves as included in syllabi? and, how do marginalized students make meaning of their experiences with syllabi through their intersecting identities? This study used IPA to analyze each participant's syllabus experience. A purposeful homogenous sampling yielded seven marginalized third- and fourth-year undergraduate students from four Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern universities. Individual semi-structured recorded interviews that lasted between 51–128 minutes collected the data. After data analysis, member-checking confirmed the researcher's interpretations. Five themes emerged through the analysis: Expressing feelings from syllabi policies; Centering identities in course materials; The link between syllabus, faculty, and course; Creating equitable partnerships; and Providing solutions for identities.

The participants understood themselves as not included in syllabi policies and course materials. They found policies had a punitive nature, lack of flexibility, and did not include their identities. There were negative and positive effects on their well-being, and they provided a link between the syllabus and "syllabus day." Through their experiences, they offered ideas and solutions to help them feel inclusion not only for themselves but for other marginalized identities.

This study contributes to the field by providing insight into the experiences of marginalized students and syllabi. Based on this study, there is work that must be done by faculty, administration, faculty developers, accessibility and disability services offices to implement inclusive pedagogy and universal design for learning (UDL) in all courses. Further studies can add to this study, examine the change with the incorporation of inclusive pedagogy and UDL, syllabus day, faculty resistance to change, and syllabi policy reform.