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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Counseling and Human Development

First Advisor

Ruth Harper


There are several ways to refer to this cultural population; for the purposes of this paper, we will use “Native American” or “Native” for consistency. Background: While student affairs research has continuously acknowledged the importance of college student identity development, few studies have viewed identity as having multiple dimensions that can intersect and become more or less salient throughout an individual’s life. Purpose: This study expands on the work of Abes and Jones (2004) by exploring how meaning-making capacity helps determine the level at which a White campus climate affects ten Native American college students’ perceptions of their multiple identities. Method: Data was collected from a series of three in-depth interviews with each student, using narrative inquiry methodology. This research examines how each student’s Native identity relates to her or his other identity dimensions by using the reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity (Abes, Jones & McEwen, 2007). Baxter Magolda’s (2009) work was used to determine participants’ meaning making capacity. Results: The meaning and salience of Native identity varied for each participant, but campus climate usually played a role in how participants viewed identities and how they viewed themselves on campus. Students with a more complex ability to make meaning were better able to minimize negative effects of campus culture. Conclusions: This study brings forward rich information and several themes regarding Native students’ college experiences, and how they make meaning of their multiple identities. Student affairs professionals will benefit from knowing how these students view themselves, as well as their perceptions of campus culture and how a predominantly White campus affects their college experience.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Indians of North America -- Ethnic identity
Indian college students -- Attitudes
Indian college students -- Social conditions
Identity (Psychology)


Includes bibliographical references (pages 63-69)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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