American Indian College Students as Native Nation Builders: Tribal Financial Aid as a Lens for Understanding College-Going Paradoxes
AuthorNelson, Christine A.
Tribal Education Department
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractPowerful norms tend to define the purpose and function of higher education as a means for individual students to improve individual social mobility and to attain occupational status, and oftentimes, we assume this to be the primary intent of any college student (Baum, Ma, & Payea, 2013; Day & Newberger, 2002). For the purpose of this study, the normative framing of college as primarily an individual benefit is scrutinized to understand how this norm engages American Indian students in the college-going process. Indigenous scholars argue that infusing the concept of Native Nation Building into our understandings of higher education challenges such mainstream cultural norms and fills a space between the individual and mainstream society (Brayboy, Fann, Castagno, and Solyom, 2012). This qualitative study proposes the Individual-Independent/Political-Collective Paradox Model to understand how American Indian students navigate and make-meaning of collective values and the role of student tribal status on the college-going process. Through the voices of thirty-seven American Indian college students, the findings demonstrate the critical thinking and navigation of varying realities that American Indian students face when entering higher education institution. I present the three main findings of this study. The first finding presents how the participant's college-going process is not linear in both pathways and meaning making. Through a college-going typology, students reveal how the college-going phases have cyclical aspects, where each phase is built upon each other and influence subsequent meaning- and decision-making. The second finding demonstrates how the college-choice process is instrumental in understanding how students frame the purpose of higher education through collective values that are intricately related to students' reference of tribal enrollment. The third finding shows how collective values and tribal enrollment help inform the meaning of financial aid for students. These meanings reveal that tribal aid is not only relevant to providing access during the college exploration and choice phases, but the aid reinforces students' purpose of higher education and future goals, which both are primarily collective in nature.
Degree ProgramGraduate College