Date of Conferral







Cheryl Keen


The persistence rates of Native American students in higher education are lower than other underrepresented groups. Research suggests that the discrepancy could result from factors outside of students' academic knowledge. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to explore how Cherokee students perceive their tribal culture affects their ability to persist at institutions of higher education with a primarily Whitestreamed campus culture. Tharp's cultural compatibility theory and Astin's student involvement theory guided the development of the research questions. The research questions explored potential differences between Cherokee students' tribal culture and the culture these students percieve exists on their college campus, how those differences could influence their ability to persist, and the educational changes Cherokee students suggest are made to increase persistence rates. Interviews with 8 Cherokee students from 2 institutions in the Midwest region of the United States were analyzed using open coding. The resulting themes suggested that participants perceived cultural incongruence with the campus culture, which often led to feelings of isolation and a lower sense of belonging. Involvement in campus activities and groups and encouragement from family and community helped participants persist. Suggested changes to the learning environment included incorporating indigenous instructional methods, creating dedicated spaces for Cherokee students, and increasing mentor relationships. A positive social change implication of this study is the increased knowledge and understanding of the factors that may contribute to low persistence rates of Native American students.