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One Caring Person: The Impact of Student-Staff Casual Interaction on International Students’ Sense of Belonging

Lee, Kyoungah (2024) One Caring Person: The Impact of Student-Staff Casual Interaction on International Students’ Sense of Belonging. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Over the last 10 years, undergraduate international student enrollment at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) has increased by 175%. However, international students still face unique challenges and experience low sense of belonging. With the aim of increasing students’ sense of belonging, I created and implemented the staff-student mentoring program called One Caring Person (OCP) program where students can meet staff informally who are not in their academic or professional setting.

I recruited 23 staff and 23 students who are diverse in their country of origin, gender, area of study, school year, academic background, cultural experience, interest, personalities, etc. During the program, I facilitated training sessions separately for students and staff which were intentionally designed and tailored to the needs and situations of each group. International students were paired with staff who were recruited and trained to serve as a One Caring Person (mentor) and they were encouraged to meet 2-3 times in a semester to build the relationship and share their experiences and cultures. This program ended with an end-of-program celebration.

I used the qualitative study method to test the impact of the One Caring Person (OCP) program on undergraduate international students’ sense of belonging at Pitt. I purposefully selected 11 students to share their perspectives, thoughts, and feelings about their experiences with their staff OCP for data collection and analysis.
My findings indicated that all 11 students who were interviewed expressed that they felt cared about, accepted, respected, or valued by their staff OCP (mentor), which are all necessary steps toward achieving or increasing a sense of belonging. The study revealed several key findings. First, students felt that their OCP was an emotional support pillar. Second, they saw their OCP as a friend and mentor. Third, they considered the OCP program as an opportunity for cultural exploration. Lastly, they relied on their OCP to help them overcome challenges such as cultural adjustment and language barriers. Recommendations, limitations, and considerations for future study concluded the dissertation. In the future, senior leadership and institutional support will be necessary especially if the program is expanding to a larger scale.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lee, KyoungahKYL25@pitt.eduKYL25
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSchuster, Maximilian
Committee MemberPerry, Jill
Committee MemberKoo, Katie
Date: 5 January 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 20 October 2023
Approval Date: 5 January 2024
Submission Date: 13 December 2023
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 117
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: international students, sense of belonging, social integration, engagement
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2024 20:36
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2024 20:36


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