Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Beth Osnes

Second Advisor

Christina Marín

Third Advisor

Bud Coleman

Fourth Advisor

Amanda Giguere

Fifth Advisor

Alex Sarian


Upward Bound (UB) is a federally-funded TRIO educational opportunity program that assists low-income, potential first-generation college students in achieving a postsecondary education. UB offers many valuable services such as academic instruction and tutoring, cultural enrichment opportunities, work-study opportunities, assistance with college applications and financial aid navigation, counseling, and mentorship. However, in order for UB’s services to be fully effective, students need to remain in the program until completion. Therein lies a concern: students often drop out of UB prior to high school graduation.

The purpose of this study is to examine how applied theatre and arts-based techniques serve to build community and bolster retention rates in an individual UB program. The methodology used in this qualitative case study utilized a series of applied theatre and arts-based workshops, which centered on guiding program participants in developing a community of support, articulating their values and perspectives, and navigating their experiences as potential first-generation college students. This research is built upon an understanding of applied theatre, arts-based research, and sense of community theory. I integrate these concepts, as well as provide foundational information on the landscape of college access in the United States and the merit of this longstanding educational opportunity program.

This dissertation describes the collaboration with an individual UB program. During their 2013-2016 summer sessions on a residential college campus, 140 students participated in this research. Through the use of applied theatre and arts-based techniques, these workshops provided participants with a space to examine their college-bound journey and served to build community and bolster retention rates in this program. I include descriptions of the workshop experiences with participants and outline several of the activities utilized in this work. Perspectives from interviews with participants and current and former program personnel are included throughout, as well as a discussion on how this work could be utilized with students in other programs with similar goals and upon first-generation students’ arrival to a college campus.