The culture of most colleges and universities is very different for Native American students with close ties to their traditional communities. "Traditional," in a Native American sense, means multiple interconnections of emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual identity that combine to define expectations for the Native American way. This traditional cultural perspective is often in conflict with college cultures where typically only the academic or social aspects of identity are addressed. Research on college students of several ethnicities has found that the experience of post-secondary education can change individuals' attitudes, values, and behaviors. However, none of these studies focused on the experience of Native American students. This study attempted to determine how students' with a traditional Native American upbringing feel that their attitudes, values, and behaviors have been changed by exposure to the Western culture of a college environment, and further, whether this potential change was a factor in their academic persistence. In order to begin to explore Native American students' experiences of recognizing and negotiating differences of culture, attitudes, and values, this study analyzed unstructured qualitative interviews of 15 Native American college students. Themes resulting from the analysis of texts that describe the students' experiences included class differences,feeling academically unprepared, lifestyle differences, desire to disprove negative stereotypes,importance of finding supportive others, experiences of greater diversity, experiences of cultural tension, changes in viewpoint, increased independence, and an increased desire to give back to their native communities.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





Native American populations, college students, academic persistence, cultural differences, changes in attitudes, values, and beliefs