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Understanding Mixed Race and Multiethnic Students' Sense of Belonging in College

Chaudhari, Prema (2016) Understanding Mixed Race and Multiethnic Students' Sense of Belonging in College. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Sense of belonging is a key factor in college student development and learning. For multiracial and multiethnic college students, limited information exists on sense of belonging as an independent construct with full attention to its social, cognitive, and affective elements. As such, it is difficult to clearly depict how these students experience institutional or contextual sense of belonging in college and what factors contribute to it. Further research is warranted to better support the growing multiracial and multiethnic college student population for the reasons that they have unique racial and ethnic needs and experiences that may bear on belongingness. This qualitative research study aimed to understand the factors that enhanced or hindered multiracial and multiethnic undergraduate students’ sense of belonging in college and explored how race- and ethnicity-related factors influenced their institutional and contextual belonging in college. A constructivist paradigm using a phenomenological perspective and grounded theory via constant comparative analysis was adopted. Eleven self-identifying multiracial and multiethnic college students attending a large, predominantly white public university participated in the study. Participants represented all class years and a range of majors, with the majority identifying as female (N=9). Strayhorn’s (2012) core elements of sense of belonging was the conceptual framework informing this study. Data were collected through single one-on-one in-depth semi-structured interviews. Results revealed, among the multiple factors identified as influencing sense of belonging, the perpetuation of monoracial norms, fluidity of students’ racial and ethnic identity, and experiences of multiracial microaggressions were uniquely reflected factors that impacted mixed race and multiethnic students’ institutional and contextual belonging. Two behavioral strategies were used by students to manage their reduced sense of belonging: (a) accommodate to monoracial norms through situational identity and (b) resist conforming to monoracial norms through disengagement and disruption of multiracial microaggressions. Lastly, friendships were critical contexts where students’ belongingness was enhanced through validation. These findings are important because they support and expand understandings of how mixed race and multiethnic students’ unique racial and ethnic needs and experiences bear on their sense of belonging.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chaudhari, Premapremachaudhari@gmail.comPPC6
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJohnson, Carljohnson@education.pitt.eduJOHNSON
Committee MemberGarcia, Ginaggarcia@pitt.eduGGARCIA
Committee MemberGodley, Amandaagodley@pitt.eduAGODLEY
Committee MemberGuevarra,
Date: 28 April 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 February 2016
Approval Date: 28 April 2016
Submission Date: 10 April 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 193
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Psychology in Education
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: mixed race, multiethnic, college students, sense of belonging
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2016 17:12
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:32


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