Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Education

Advisor

Cheryl Keen

Abstract

Religion and spirituality have been found to contribute to the well-being of American university students. Although practiced by a small minority, Islam is the fastest growing faith in the United States, indicating a growing campus presence. The purpose of this study was to identify campus experiences that influenced the identity perception of traditional age Muslim American women. The conceptual framework included theories of identity negotiation, intergroup contact, and religious identity as well as campus climate structures developed to improve diversity. This phenomenological study took place at 2 public 4-year universities in California and included interviews with 6 participants. Interview protocol was framed by 4 research questions and focused on classroom and campus experiences that affected the choice to wear or refrain from wearing the hijab, campus satisfaction, and how student services might support a positive religious climate. Data were analyzed through continuous comparison of codes developed from organization of significant student statements into units of meaning, context, and synthesis of significance of events experienced. Themes that emerged were harassment, stereotyping based on media portrayals, and student and faculty ignorance of Islam. The participants expressed a deep personal and spiritual identification with their faith and requested campus spaces for this expression. This study may contribute to positive social change through the initiation of education and training programs for campus policymakers, student affairs personnel, faculty, and staff regarding the unique needs of religious minority groups, including Muslim American women.