UK Professor Publishes Research on First-Gen Music Ed Doctoral Students’ Experience

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2017) — Recent research by Martina Vasil, assistant professor of music education at University of Kentucky School of Music, explores both challenges and supports for first-generation college students pursuing a doctoral degree in music education.

Findings reached by Vasil, and Joyce McCall, visiting assistant professor of music at Indiana University Bloomington, can be found in the article “The Perspectives of Two First-Generation College Students Pursuing Doctoral Degrees in Music Education” published this summer in The Journal of Music Teacher Education.

In the article, the researchers examine the experiences of two first-generation college (FGC) students pursing doctoral degrees in music education. The students’ motivations for pursuing an advanced degree were to enact change in the field of music education and fulfill personal ambitions. The research participants encountered two challenges, insufficient cognitive maps and inadequate familial support, which contributed to financial difficulties and health issues.

Support networks inside and outside of their music education doctoral programs facilitated the students’ degree attainment. The participants lacked the cultural capital needed to navigate higher education because of their first-generation status. Instead, participants employed several forms of community cultural wealth: social, navigational, resistant and familial capital.

The research found first-generation college students take additional risks in their lives to pursue a doctoral degree. In response, Vasil and McCall suggest that administrators provide doctoral students with adequate financial and psychological support (including health insurance) and that music education faculty be more active in identifying and supporting first generation college students and other underrepresented populations in doctoral programs.

Further, the researchers urge first generation college students pursuing doctoral degrees to be proactive by documenting and reporting issues to trusted faculty and sharing their experiences with other first generation college students to build support systems. Through taking these steps, Vasil and McCall believe this will prepare a more diverse group of future music teacher educators.

Vasil teaches undergraduate courses in general music methods, research, popular music and social justice at UK. In addition, she serves as the director of the Orff Schulwerk and Dalcroze Summer Institute at the university. Vasil received her bachelor’s degree in music from West Virginia University, her master’s degree in music education at Eastman School of Music and her doctoral degree in music education from West Virginia University.

The UK School of Music at the UK College of Fine Arts has garnered a national reputation for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, music therapy, composition, and theory and music history. 

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue