American Indian Students: An Exploration of Their Experiences in Doctoral Programs
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This qualitative study explores the experiences of American Indian students in doctoral programs of study at a Research Extensive University. Ten doctoral students who identified as American Indian were interviewed about their experiences in their doctoral programs. The students were in social sciences, biomedical sciences, and natural sciences doctoral programs. American Indian doctoral students are a population in higher education about which a small body of research exists. More knowledge is needed to understand the nature of students' experiences and factors that enhance their educational experiences. A need exists for American Indians with advanced education in various fields to meet the growing needs of Native communities. The literature included a historical perspective on the education of American Indians, their current status in higher education, and the theoretical and methodological approaches used in examining American Indian students' experiences in doctoral programs. A major finding of the study was that faculty mentors were the most influential individuals with American Indian students. Faculty encouraged them to consider graduate school and shared their knowledge about the expectations of graduate school. Second, students perceived graduate education to be a path to a more meaningful life and as a functional advantage for upward mobility. Third, students' cultural identities were evidenced in their desire to make a contribution in their fields to Native people, in their approaches to teaching and their research and scholarship. Students with tribally based research looked to elders as sources of knowledge rather than solely to academia. Fourth, a major challenge was students' experiences of racial micro-aggressions in the classroom environment. Recommendations are given for institutional leaders on policies and practices and for future research on American Indians in graduate education.
- Education - Seattle