A Road Not Traveled Alone
The Lived Experience of Rural, Reentry Women and the Relationships that Sustain Them
Although the literature contains much research about reentry women in past decades, that research focused primarily on white, middle class women. It is rich with studies in mentoring, but previous studies rarely explored the crucial connections between reentry women and mentoring. This study bridges the gap by exploring the experiences of 10 multicultural, reentry women in the rural South at a small community college. The researcher conducted audio-taped interviews of all participants and collected several prose artifacts offered by participants. Initially, the typed transcripts were analyzed and coded into major categories; codes were collapsed and meaning making continued until 5 themes emerged that best evinced the essence of the participants' experience. The findings show that reentry women rely on a broad nexus of support critical to their success. The study identified the importance of informal mentors and found specific ways that academia might support reentry women. As reentry women journey through academe, they find their voices, indicating growing confidence and a sense of empowerment. Such positive changes make theirs a heroic, transformative journey. Despite substantial barriers and real world demands, reentry women endure and succeed, bettering their own lives, their families' lives, and, ultimately, their communities. Their story reflects a half century of societal change regarding women's roles. In the 21st century, reentry women form a growing and substantial population in higher education, thus institutions, educators, and staff must better understand and support them. This study offers specific recommendations for building such support systems and enacting positive social change.
About the Author
Cassandra Robison is associate professor of Communications at Central Florida Community College in Ocala. She teaches creative writing, English and American Literature and serves as faculty advisor for the award-winning student literary magazine, Imprints.