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Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education


amination (GRE), and their relationship to grades in particular coursework (Feeley, Williams, & Wise, 2005; House, 1999).

Retention is another widely used indicator of success in doctoral edu- cation. Also described as persistence (Lovitts, 2001), retention “refers to a student’s continued enrollment” (Isaac, 1993, p. 15), a definition similar to that used to measure undergraduate student success (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991/2005). In this way, retention is related to doctoral student success, accounting for the students who persist from year to year in the graduate program. Previous studies have cited varying retention rates. Golde (1998) and Bowen and Rudenstine (1992) have documented that, of all the students who will leave their doctoral programs, about one third leave after the first year, another third before candidacy, and a final third during the disserta- tion phase, a finding also confirmed by Nerad and Miller (1996). Reasons for retention (or its lack) among doctoral students are generally related to issues of integration into the program or department (Girves & Wemmerus, 1988; Lovitts, 2001; Tinto, 1993), feelings of psychological and cognitive inadequacy (Golde, 1998; Katz & Hartnett, 1976), lack of financial support (Abedi & Benkin, 1987; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Girves & Wemmerus, 1988), and dissatisfaction with the program or department (Girves & Wem- merus, 1988; Lovitts, 2001; Perrucci & Hu, 1995).

Degree completion is another obvious indicator of doctoral student success. Completion rates in doctoral education, as previously stated, have been cited as averaging 50% (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Different disciplines, however, have varying rates. Those in the fields of science, tech- nology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) generally complete at higher rates than those in the social sciences or humanities (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Moreover, degree completion and its relation to such socio- demographic variables as gender and race vary (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Similar to influences upon retention, it is apparent that many different variables influence degree completion (Lovitts, 2001) and time-to-degree rates certainly vary by both discipline (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992) and by socio-demographic status (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Ferrer de Valero, 2001).

Finally, competencies related to the professional realm are also mentioned in the literature in regard to doctoral student success.The individual enrolled in doctoral education is, of course, also a burgeoning professional (Golde, 1998), learning the skills, knowledge, habits of mind, values, and attitudes of his or her chosen field (Soto Antony, 2002; Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001). Therefore, while quantifiable measures such as GPA, test scores, retention, and graduation rates may indicate success, professional and attitudinal

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