Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Melissa Duffy


Psychological capital (PsyCap) is a higher-order construct comprised of four psychological resources: hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism (HERO), and has been linked to academic achievement and engagement (Hazan Liran & Miller, 2019; Luthans, et al., 2012). Interventions designed to build PsyCap may be particularly helpful for firstgeneration (FG) students who face additional challenges in higher education. This study aimed to: (1) explore differences in PsyCap among FG and continuing generation (CG) students; (2) investigate relationships between PsyCap, GPA, and persistence; and (3) examine the impact of a 2-hour PsyCap micro-intervention (PCI) on FG students’ academic PsyCap, academic achievement (GPA), and persistence (enrollment intentions). Workshop fidelity, participant perceptions, and FG student needs were also explored.

Undergraduate students completed an initial survey (N = 607). A subset of FG students (n = 34) was randomly assigned to a treatment or waitlist control condition. The treatment group (n = 18) participated in the academic PsyCap intervention and both groups completed surveys at three time points (Pre-Post-Retention). Final sample for analysis included 28 participants (n = 17 treatment, n= 11 control). Comparison of FG (n = 167) and CG (n= 440) students’ PsyCap revealed no statistically significant differences. Significant positive relationships were found between academic PsyCap, GPA, and persistence. Regarding the PCI, analysis revealed no statistically significant differences in academic PsyCap, GPA, or persistence between the two groups over time; however, participant feedback indicated the intervention was engaging, useful, and positively impacted their academic experience. The findings have implications for future research and educational practice, emphasizing the need to further explore the role of PsyCap in supporting FG students and addressing academic challenges and needs.


© 2023, Mary Elizabeth Sewell