Tsu-Lin Yeh

Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management

First Advisor

Mark S. Nagel


This dissertation investigated international student-athletes’ (ISAs’) transition experiences of being recruited for, matriculating in, and then leaving high-performance and commercialized Southeastern Conference (SEC) institutions. Adopting the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) theory, this dissertation specifically examined how the four CQ elements (metacognition CQ, cognition CQ, motivation CQ, and behavior CQ) existed in an ISA’s transition process. CQ explains a person’s capability for performing well in culturally diverse environments (Fang et al., 2018). Traditional CQ studies have been utilized to manage international organizations’ diversity and inclusion (Triandis, 2006), particularly regarding employee retention, career transition and development (Mangla, 2021). However, although sports management is a well-recognized international industry, limited studies have adopted CQ concepts to analyze sport management diversity, particularly in a college sports’ system. The researcher designed a semi-structured, hermeneutic phenomenological interview for capturing ISAs’ various transitions from their recruitment, on-campus life, and leaving the athletic program. Using criterion-based sampling, a total of 14 SEC ISAs (five females and nine males) were interviewed. They played six sports (basketball, cross country, diving, tennis, track & field, and swimming) and represented 10 countries (Australia, Croatia, Colombia, Germany, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). Protocol coding and in-vivo coding were utilized to identify ISA transitional experiences (Saldaña, 2015). SEC ISAs clearly discussed their transitions for their triple roles of being students, athletes, and social members of the campus community, but also indicated that they maintained a role as an international. Major themes, such as travel and international competitions; access to senior athletes and alumni athletes; trustworthy relationships with the coach and within the team culture; access to resources; self-awareness and career identity; career support and the eligibility for working in the United States, were identified. Facing new/different cultural systems, these four CQ elements meant how the SEC ISA perceived (metacognition CQ), learned (cognition CQ), interacted (behavior CQ), and encouraged (motivation CQ) themselves during their transitions.