Academic journal article College Student Journal

Understanding Campus Climate through the Voices of Filipina/o American College Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Understanding Campus Climate through the Voices of Filipina/o American College Students

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to discuss findings that investigate the experiences of Filipina/o American college students at a large, research I institution in southern California. Qualitative data was collected through one-on-one interviews to elicit responses related to the campus environment, sense of campus community/sense of belonging, and feelings associated with being a Filipina/o student in a predominantly White institution. The findings indicate a challenging campus environment on both academic and social levels for these students. Results also suggest the importance of institutions playing an active role in facilitating a conducive learning environment while being intentional in addressing issues of equity and diversity for Filipina/o American college students.

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Campus climate was identified as central to the persistence and attrition of students of color (Bennett, 1995; Smith and Associates, 1997), particularly those attending predominantly White institutions of higher education (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen & Allen, 1999; Hurtado & Ponjuan, 2005). For example, Hurtado and Ponjuan (2005) contend that a positive climate with interaction of diverse peers and strong academic support led to a higher sense of inclusiveness to the campus. Yet, understanding how students of color experience these types of institutions still remains a major imperative for institutional agents (faculty, staff and administrators) as a result of the ever increasing diversity on college and university campuses.

According to the American Council on Education (ACE) (2005), the total U.S. college and university undergraduate enrollment for fall 2003-04 was more than 17.5 million consisting of 14% African American, 1% American Indian, 6% Asian American, 13% Latino/a, 2% other races and minorities and 63% White (ACE 2005). If ACE estimates are accurate, these percentages will be especially profound in the ensuing years for students of color. Current demographic trends indicate, 4 out of 10 (36%) U.S. university students are students of color. Therefore, fostering an institutional environment with a positive, affective and cognitive learning environment for all students continues to be a mandate for higher education institutions.

Although the literature on campus climate provides us with a myriad of relevant issues and topics on how students experience the college environment, a significant amount of the literature focuses on similarities and differences between students of color and their White counterparts (Gloria & Ho, 2003; Gloria & Kurpius, 1996; Hurtado & Carter, 1997). Very few of these studies have disaggregated the data to determine how individual students of color experience and/or perceive the college environment (Ancis, 2000). Of the existing research, only a small percentage is directed specifically at Asian Pacific American (APA) students. This may be due in part to the model minority stereotype that surrounds APA students in higher education (Bennett, 1995; Yeh, 2004). For example, the stereotype assumes APA college students are high-achieving and adapt more easily to majority dominated environments than other students of color, therefore they do not require any support services (Suzuki, 2002; Yeh 2002). Stereotypes, such as these, not only oversimplify the social and intellectual achievements of APA students, but, they also work to "silence" the voices of some in the group who live under the cloak of silence because of these varied stereotypes (Hune, 2002; Nakanishi, 1989). For instance, according to Suzuki (2002) counseling centers have been strongly influenced by the model minority stereotype by assuming that APA students are academically acclimated, motivated and come from well adjusted families. Research in this area, however, showed that in addition to increased racial harassment and violence against APAs, many students were also experiencing tremendous amounts of stress, alienation and pressure to do well academically, thus affecting their well being (Suzuki, 2002). …

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