The Asian American College Experience at a Diverse Institution: Campus Climate as a Predictor of Sense of Belonging
Von Bergen, Alison
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The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences and perceptions of Asian American students at a large, diverse, public institution in order to assess the current campus climate and how this climate may relate to these students’ sense of belonging on campus. The conceptual framework used Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pederson and Allen’s (1998) dimensions for understanding the campus climate, focusing primarily on the behavioral and psychological aspects of campus climate. Specifically, the study sought to answer the question: Do the perceptions of the campus climate affect Asian American college students’ sense of belonging on a campus with a diverse student body? This study incorporated a mixed method approach consisting of a series of surveys and interviews. Quantitative data were collected through three different surveys: The Campus Connectedness Scale (Lee & Davis, 2000; α = .92), the Cultural Congruity Scale (Gloria & Robinson-Kurpius, 1996; α =.88) and the University Environment Scale (Gloria & Robinson-Kurpius, 1996; α =.85). To examine the relationship between perceptions of campus climate and overall sense of belonging, Pearson’s correlations, analyses of variances, and simple linear regressions were utilized.This study also used student interviews as a qualitative method to supplement the quantitative data. Findings indicated that Asian American students’ perceptions of the campus climate were strongly related to their sense of belonging via their cultural congruity on campus. Specifically the full regression models identified that campus climate significantly predicted cultural congruity (F = 42.38, p < .05) and sense of belonging (F = 19.55, p < .05). When tested for mediation, campus climate was a predictor of sense of belonging (β = .38, t = 4.42, p < .05); when cultural congruity was entered on the first step, followed by campus climate, the relationship between campus climate and sense of belonging was no longer significant (β = .15, t = 1.63, p > .05). The qualitative findings from the interviews indicated that these students viewed their campus as extremely unique, free of any race-related issues. They also emphasized the importance of student organizations in creating positive feelings of belonging on campus. Reasons for these perceptions revolved around a color-blind ideology as well as a “big-city” exclusion rationale; these students believed their campus, as part of a large urban city, was absent of racial discrimination and stereotypes. Higher education administrators must have the responsibility to ensure a welcoming and supportive environment for all students, including Asian Americans. As the review of literature will demonstrate, too often the Asian American college experience is overlooked or minimalized in academic research. University officials may use the information gained from this study to implement programs and services that support a more successful and rewarding college experience for Asian American students.