AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Supporting Pacific Islander Student Identity in Higher Education

by Kayla Y Kosaki

Institution: Oregon State University
Year: 2016
Keywords: Pacific Islander; Pacific Islander American students  – Race identity  – United States
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2068580
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1957/59189


In recent years, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) have become one of the fastest-growing racial groups within the United States, increasing by 40% between 2000 and 2010, and expected to nearly double in population size by 2030 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012; Empowering Pacific Islander Communities & Asian Americans Advancing Justice [EPIC & AAAJ], 2014). With this increase in racial diversity within the greater U.S. population as a whole, the need for accessible and culturally relevant resources in higher education has become more prominent than ever. While the overall population has increased significantly, Pacific Islander students continue to face challenges of access, retention, and lack of culturally relevant resources and support within higher education institutions. Currently, only 18% of Pacific Islander adults possess bachelor's degrees and only 38% of college- aged youth were enrolled in college in 2011 (EPIC & AAAJ, 2014). Statistics like these are often hidden as institutional data on Pacific Islander students are often aggregated with Asian American data within a pan-ethnic Asian Pacific Islander (API) identity, masking the distinct histories, identities, and challenges of many students within higher education. At predominantly White institutions on the continental United States, this identity label and its inconsistent use within data collection and subsequent resource allocation marginalize Pacific Islander students not just within predominantly White communities, but from Asian Americans as well, who make up the majority of the API identity. While forms of research and higher education support for API continues to rise, support for Pacific Islander students, staff, and faculty, specifically are not as evident. Through narrative inquiry, this study examines the experiences of Pacific Islander students through the framework of counter-storytelling in Critical Race Theory at a large predominantly White university in the Pacific Northwest. The research questions that framed this study were as follows: (1) What is the historical significance and influence of identity politics on Pacific Islander students in higher education? (2) How has familial, community, and institutional context influenced students' understanding of their Pacific Islander identities leading into their transition into college? (3) How do these identities impact and show up in their college experience? (4) How can the institution better support Pacific Islander student success and identity development during their college career? This study contributes to existing literature that center the experiences of Pacific Islander students in higher education and their narratives analyzing the way the institution interacts with that aspect of their identity. The researcher concludes with implications from findings and recommendations for higher education professionals to utilize on their campuses. Advisors/Committee Members: Nishihara, Janet (advisor), Alvarez-Cortez, Teresita (committee member).