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The Review of Higher Education Spring 2009, Volume 32, No. 3, pp. 383–406 Copyright © 2009 Association for the Study of Higher Education All Rights Reserved (ISSN 0162-5748)

Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education: Perspectives of Faculty in Seven Disciplines

Susan K. Gardner

The term “success” in higher education has been used widely to describe multiple outcomes including models to better understand how students can succeed (e.g., Girves & Wemmerus, 1988; Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez, & Trevino, 1997), the practices best suited for success (e.g., Frost, 1991; Wil- liams, 2002), the influence of particular variables upon success over time (e.g., Burton & Wang, 2005; Decker, 1973; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986), and even the relationship between specific variables and success (e.g., Hirschberg & Itkin, 1978; Nettles, 1990; Wilson & Hardgrave, 1995). Indeed, a search of the 2006 conference program of the Association for the Study of Higher Education identified more than 20 different papers and sessions that utilized the term “success.”

In doctoral education, the study of success is also prevalent. To be sure, understanding doctoral student success is particularly important as only 50% of those students who enter doctoral education actually complete the degree (e.g., Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006).

SUSAN K. GARDNER is Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Maine. She gratefully acknowledges the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for funding this study. Address queries to her at 5749 Merrill Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5749; telephone (207) 581-3122; fax: (207) 581-3120; email: susan.k.gardner@ maine.edu.

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