Alexandria Digital Research Library

The Ethnic Identity Development of Southeast Asian American College Students : Experiences across Academic and Social Contexts

Tran, Connie Nguyen
Degree Supervisor:
Hsiu-Zu Ho
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Asian American Studies, Education, Higher Education Administration, Education, Higher, and Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies
Southeast Asian Americans
Ethnic Identity
Higher Education
Online resources and Dissertations, Academic
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Education
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014

The perception of the high-achieving Asian American student can make invisible the challenges these students face as ethnic minorities on their college campuses. In particular, Southeast Asian American students, such as those of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese descent, encounter additional barriers because of the circumstances of their parents' migration experiences and the ethnic socialization that occurs within their families and communities. Most current research that has been conducted on Asian Americans in higher education has not focused specifically on Southeast Asian American students. As argued by Teranishi, Behringer, Grey, and Parker (2009), college student development models may not be inclusive of the experiences of Southeast Asian American students, especially since those models may not account for how academic development can intersect with students' ethnic identity development. Primarily based on Tinto's (1975) college retention model, this present study examined the college integration and ethnic identity development of a sample of Southeast Asian American undergraduate students.

This study included individual interviews with a sample of 27 Southeast Asian American students that were all attending the same four-year university in California. Participants were recruited from campus spaces that were predicted to have a large Southeast Asian American presence. The interview guide addressed students' prior ethnic socialization experiences before entering college and also students' ethnic- and non-ethnic-based experiences since arriving to college. Participants were asked specific questions pertaining to ethnic identity exploration and commitment. Line-by-line coding was conducted on the interview transcripts and themes were organized across the interviews to address the four major research questions of the study.

Results of the study showed that Southeast Asian Americans who were committed to their ethnic identities prior to college continued to explore their ethnic identities in college. Ethnic exploration occurred predominantly within social spaces, such as within ethnic student organizations. Parents' prior ethnic socialization continued to influence whether students were committed to their ethnic identities. Although participation in ethnic practices and traditions had generally declined in college, students maintained cultural beliefs and values that were conducive towards academic success and college persistence. With respect to college integration, students were generally socially integrated only within ethnic- and racial-related spaces. Contrary to what was expected, female students remained committed to their ethnic group even if they were in disagreement with their parents' and ethnic community's traditional gender expectations. Lastly, the findings suggested that choices in ethnic and racial identity labels varied across contexts and that ethnic identity was relevant to student development and possibly college success. The Southeast Asian American students' cultural identities contributed to their social integration, and that social integration supported the students' overall persistence in college.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (181 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Connie Tran
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