Re-conceptualizing graduate student cross-cultural socialization: a novel strength-based perspective
Brazill, Shihua Chen
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Much of the existing literature on graduate education comes from a deficit perspective, which is problematic because it blames individual failure on family background, language, or lack of cultural knowledge. Given the pervasive nature of systemic racism, this deficit model is a classic "blame the victim" approach. Instead, my three-article dissertation emphasized the strengths that graduate students bring with them and develop on their journey. The unifying theme is the focus on cross-cultural socialization through a strength-based perspective. Collectively, findings from these studies cohere around this strength-based approach. The three articles employ various epistemological, theoretical, and methodological perspectives to contribute to understanding and supporting graduate students' cross-cultural socialization experiences. Throughout the dissertation, I explored important cross-cultural socialization constructs such as cultural congruity, academic confidence, peer, faculty, and institutional interactions, cultural capital, cultural strengths, and multiple identities. The first article relied on a critical quantitative lens to examine the cultural congruity and academic confidence of AI/AN students. Our results found elevated levels of cultural congruity among those students who reported more favorable peer interactions, but the simultaneous experiences of mentor's cultural support and university environment fit did not reveal such an influence. Students reported greater levels of academic confidence in the presence of mentor's cultural support and university environment fit but not for peer influence. We situated the findings within prior research and identified where universities, peers, and mentors can provide cultural support, inspire academic confidence, and further enhance well-being through honoring the cultural strengths of AI/AN students. The second article was a qualitative study that used narrative inquiry to understand the cross-cultural socialization experiences of three Chinese international doctoral students. My findings suggest that Chinese international doctoral students use various forms of cultural capital (aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, navigational, and resistance) as leverage in their cross- cultural socialization journey. The third research article was another narrative inquiry study that built upon the second study to further understand Chinese international doctoral students' cross- cultural socialization experience. My findings suggested that cultural strengths helped to empower Chinese international doctoral students and develop their personal, social, cultural, and professional identities.