Communication influences on expression of multiracial identity in a higher education context
The current study investigated the role of the university environment in expression of a multiracial identity. Narratives from 31 in-depth interviews relayed that multiracial identity is a dynamic, complex communicative process. Three main messages related to identity were expressed by participants including a positive, neutral, and negative representation of multiracial identity. Participants indicated the importance of verbal and nonverbal communication in forming identity as shared through Cultural Markers and Readings. A definitive end-state of identity, however, was not identified, supporting recent research that advocates the adoption of multiple, healthy identity frames.
Narratives pertaining to the university environment resulted in the emergence of six characters: Climate, Student Organizations, Curriculum, Classroom, Faculty, and Resources. Characters served as inhibitors and promoters of multiracial identity. The institutional role emerged as the main inhibitor while the student body role was the main promoter. Recommendations for universities to adopt a promoter role included the development of a multiracial student organization, creating a more open institutional environment to racial diversity, implementing student support services for multiracials, and promoting a broader understanding of racial identity.
Three main “sets” of findings emerged from the present study: (a) representations of multiracial identity, (b) readings and cultural markers, and (c) inhibitors and promoters of multiracial identity. General patterns resulted from the findings. For example, Readings and Cultural Markers did not predetermine racial designation; yet, Readings and Cultural Markers were the strongest factors in predicting participants' expression of “right” to claim a group. Further, Racial Readings appeared to influence Positive and Neutral Multiracial Representation and regardless of multiracial representation, many participants communicated a need for a multiracial association or student support group.
Three important implications emerged from the present study. First, multiracial identity was approached from a communication perspective for the first time. Communication scholars have addressed monoracial identity in the past, but not multiracial identity. Second, designations of race and ethnicity were called into question. Participants communicated their conceptualization of these terms and found that very limited distinction occurred. Third, practical implementation of measures for university administrators emerged to reinforce a promoter role on the college campus.
0745: Higher education
0514: School administration