Date of Conferral







Carl M. Valdez


Indigenous students attending non-tribal colleges represent approximately 1% of the college student body, with a smaller percentage that graduate. Indigenous students often encounter racism and experience cultural differences. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore Indigenous students’ persistence at a mainstream college in the northern Midwest. Purposeful and snowball sampling was used to create a final sample of 10 self-identified Indigenous students who completed at least one semester and were 18 years or older, one full-time staff person, and two-part time student workers. Data also included a review of university strategic documents, social media pages, and observations of campus settings. The case study protocol involved incorporating cultural practices of offering tobacco and smudging before interviews. Recorded interviews were transcribed and analyzed using a content analysis strategy. The findings were consistent with Tinto’s model of student departure and HeavyRunner and Marshall’s family education model that underscored the importance of social interactions to persist academically. The key findings demonstrated students shared a proud connection to their culture, with the most impactful themes related to gratitude and giving back to the Indigenous community. The findings contribute to promoting social change by suggesting a culturally inclusive campus community would further support the Indigenous students’ sense of belonging and contribute to persistence efforts and graduation. The study’s findings can assist educators in understanding the challenges Indigenous students’ experience at a mainstream campus and identify actions to build relationships and culture specific supports for Indigenous students.

Included in

Education Commons