Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Mary Okada


Navajo students who attend residential schools that are located off the reservation and hours away from their homes, communities, and tribes may experience issues with development of a meaningful cultural identity. The purpose of this study was to better understand and identify key themes related to how Navajo students' cultural identity may be affected while living in an off-reservation residential hall. Phinney's ethnic identity development theory was used to explain the psychosocial process of developing industry and identity in adolescents. The primary research question addressed how former students' experiences of living in an off-reservation residence hall affected their development of cultural identity. A qualitative case study design was used. A purposeful sample of 12 Navajo former students who lived in a Bureau of Indian Education off-reservation residential hall between 2010-2014 was interviewed. The interviews were coded, and 7 themes related to loss of native language ability, yearning for native language and culture, tutoring, supportive teachers, responsibility and independence, generational legacy, and culture were identified. Based on the findings, a professional development plan was developed to train board members, administrators, and staff at the study site about how to promote students' development of positive cultural identity while living in a residential hall. With this knowledge, residential hall leaders and staff may be better able to ensure that Navajo students in their charge achieve successful educational outcomes and retain their tribal culture, practices, and language, to ensure that Navajo students can achieve successful educational outcomes and a positive cultural identity.