Publication Date

Summer 8-9-2022

Document Type

Action research project: Open access

Degree Name

MA Higher Education Leadership


Leadership Studies


The purpose of this action research was to study graduate students' sense of belonging enrolled in programs within the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego (USD) and their transition experience. This study was guided by the question: How can I improve new student onboarding programming to increase graduate student sense of belonging during the early stages of our graduate students’ onboarding experience? How can I also create a resource to help ease the graduate student transition into graduate school?

Quantitative and qualitative data was collected through a survey and one-on-one interviews with graduate students participating in the SOLES Student Ambassador program. The survey and interview data supported the importance of peer-to-peer support and connection and highlighted various opportunities for strengthening belonging and simultaneously easing the transition into graduate school for graduate students including addressing imposter syndrome, facilitating connection, and increasing academic confidence.

The primary action component of this research was developing a restorative circle focused on belonging that administrators, faculty, academic advisers, admissions staff, and others involved in the graduate student onboarding process can use to strengthen belonging and ease the graduate student transition into graduate school.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.