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American Indian Undergraduate Student Voices For Student Success


Access to higher education is believed to be one of the most important factors to promote social equity across diverse segments of the U.S. population, including American Indians. However, little has changed in terms of key metrics for success regarding retention rates for American Indian students in higher education. What is often debated regarding higher education and American Indian students relate to notions of meritocracy, colorblindness, student social integration, and maintaining one’s ethnic identity. American Indian students can add value to these discussions by providing a counternarrative that may differ from mainstream narratives. Results from this study indicate that using a blended framework that draws on critical, cultural, and identity paradigms can properly engage American Indians in an important discussion on their voice for student success and has implications for educational support systems. This study engaged American Indian undergraduate students to explore research questions on 1) how they define their cultural identity, 2) how they define their experience in higher education, and 3) how do American Indian students experience the Southern California Tribal Community Resource Center (SCTCRC)? Using a case study design, I engaged American Indian undergraduate students intending to hear their voices for improving the experience of Native students at a major university. Student development was found to be influenced by feelings of imposter phenomena, racial discrimination, a mutual support system, mentorship, and program support. SCTCRC was cited as a beneficial resource for support and growth of the students. Findings indicate a holistic approach is needed to serve American Indian students in higher education.

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