Holding the doors open: Faculty perspectives of their roles in the retention of American Indian students
The purpose of this research was to explore faculty perspectives of their roles in the retention of American Indian (AI) students at three postsecondary institutions. Previous research had documented the important role that faculty members have in retention of AI students. However faculty perspectives of the issues faced by AI students in higher education and faculty roles in retention of AI students had not been explored prior to this study. Using a qualitative multiple case study approach, interviews were conducted with thirty-four faculty members and five administrators at three higher education institutions with an outreach to American Indian students: a four-year tribal college; a small, private liberal arts college; and a public doctoral university.
Participants in this study had a personal understanding of the historical, cultural, socioeconomic, and academic barriers faced by many AI students. Faculty held strong beliefs concerning the impact that faculty members can have on the persistence decisions of individual American Indian students. While participants spoke of pedagogical strategies seen as effective for AI students, most participants emphasized faculty roles related to connecting with students, demonstrating caring, being available and accessible, and creating an environment in which AI students feel welcome and accepted. Faculty perceptions of roles were influenced by multiple factors including personal experiences with American Indian communities or individuals, individual moral values and beliefs, and personal satisfaction with mentoring students as well as organizational culture.
One of the major issues that emerged from this study was the potential conflict between American Indian worldview and the current academic culture. Recommendations for further research include additional study in of the manner in which faculty members and institutions accommodate American Indian student worldview while maintaining academic standards. Further research that explores institutional roles in support and development of faculty roles in retention of American Indian students is also recommended.
0282: Multicultural education
0514: School administration
0740: Native Americans
0740: Native studies
0745: Higher education