Rita Audy Johnston, Ph.D. is a 2017 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Johnston at her Dissertation Defense

L-R Dr. Linda Ellington, Committee Member, Dr. Rita Audy Johnston, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair. [Not pictured: Dr. Philomena Essed, Committee Member.]

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize A.E. Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Philomena Essed, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Linda Ellington, Ed.D., Committee Member


adult female college students, women, nontraditional students, access to higher education, women degree completion, role identity, social identity, intersectionality, phenomenological research design, feminism, phenomenology

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Given the scope and paucity of knowledge about the lived experiences of the female adult student entering or re-entering college later in life to degree completion, this research study identified significant themes in their lived experiences. With an appreciative eye, this study captured the female adult students’ lived experiences conveyed in a rich, inter-connected, and inspiring picture of who they are embedded into the larger context of society; such as role identity theory, social identity theory and the applicability and interpretations of these two theories on their journey to degree completion. This study also portrayed selected aspects of the feminist movement in the context of women’s access to higher education with reference to contemporary feminist views relevant to the female adult student entering or reentering college later in life to degree completion. The central question in this study: What was it like to be on a journey as a female adult student who enters, or re-enters, college later in life to degree completion? In order to inquire into the journey, or phenomenon, a qualitative methodology with a phenomenological design was used that allowed the participants to describe their lived experiences and how they made meaning of the journey to degree completion. Through a three-phased approach nine emergent themes and multiple sub-themes emerged that identified the journey and lived experiences of this group of female adult students to degree completion. This research study makes a unique contribution to the study of the marginalized group of females by not just identifying obstacles and challenges, but imparting in the participant’s own words how they overcame both internal and external influences that may have dissuaded other adult females from continuing to degree completion. By identifying the significant themes, it brought to the forefront the importance of raising awareness of the lived experiences of this marginalized group of female adult students to higher education institutions in order to bring changes in policies and procedures that will support their academic success to degree completion. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, Ohiolink ETD Center,


Rita Audy, Johnston, Ph.D.

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Dr. R. Audy Johnston designed her career within the legal world as a nationally certified paralegal in various legal arenas. After earning her Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, with a minor in Human Resource Development, her passion shifted to being an educator in higher education where she continues as an Associate Professor of Management and Leadership. As a result of her own academic journeys as a female returning to college later in life, she has devoted her time in higher education to building supportive academic relationships with her advisees and especially with adult females returning to college later in life to fulfill a lifelong academic dream or goal. Through her dissertation research she has acquired a deeper appreciation and understanding of this marginalized group of adult females and the importance of sharing our lived experiences in order to inspire and motivate others who may not have a voice. As she wrote in her dissertation, it is a journey that has been traveled by many, but there remains much to be done to facilitate the successful academic journey of those who come after.

Dr. Johnston has traveled extensively over the last ten years, as well as conducted directed international studies, in Europe, Asia, The Middle East, and South America. She has served the university where she is employed at as Senator, Chair of the Ethics Committee, as Vice-President of the Faculty Senate, and currently serves as President of the Faculty Senate. She has presented at various conferences and has co-authored and published the article," The Development and Progress of Female Leadership in the United Arab Emirates" in the Journal of Business and Economics with Dr. Ann Langlois. Dr. Johnston is the Program Chair for the 2018 International Leadership Association Global Conference.

Other Publications:

Langlois, A. L., & Johnston, R. A. (2013). The development and progress of female leadership in the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Business and Economics, 4(10), 991-1010. [available in Open Access ]