Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Alla Korzh


Arguing that higher education institutions (HEIs) and academia rely on racist and Western-centric narratives to inhibit international students from constructing their own complex meanings of identity, this study explores how 11 international students at West Mountains College made sense and created meanings of racial and ethnic identity during their sojourn in the United States. This study focuses on students’ experiences at the college and at the Washington State Students of Color Conference, whose workshops and student-centered approach encouraged participants to explore and interrogate their ethnic and racial identities and those of their peers. Investigating these critical experiences through a focus group, one-on-one interviews, and a public presentation, I find that participants construct racial and ethnic identities that conform to, contest, and/or transform the dominant Western narrative. Regardless of their orientation towards this narrative, participants’ sense of self and understanding of others deepened and diversified as a result of their sojourn. Developing interpersonal, intrapersonal, and intercultural skills along the way, participants offer new narratives of self and other that encourage self-determination and self-expression and allow for plural identities. I, along with my participants, suggest that HEIs must account for and celebrate these new narratives as a means of improving intercultural dialogue between international students and the campus at large. I see this dialogue as tantamount to the exchange of people, knowledge, and ideas that is the heart of international education.

Keywords: ethnic identity development, racial identity development, international student identity development, higher education administration


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Community College Leadership | International and Comparative Education