Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Persistence, determination, and hard work are crucial ingredients for life": A narrative inquiry into the lives of first-generation Vietnamese American students
by Ta, Betty Tram, Ed.D., California State University, Long Beach, 2015, 314; 3703043
Abstract (Summary)

Asian Americans are often regarded as the “model minority,” applauded for their ability to blend in to American society, achieve academically, and climb the socio-economic ladder. However, this model minority status is a myth that fails to recognize the variation that exists across different Asian American subpopulations. Recent studies have acknowledged the diverse ethnicities, cultural, economic, and social capital among different Asian American subgroups. This narrative inquiry explored the K-16 educational experiences of academically successful first-generation Vietnamese American college students. This Asian American subpopulation has experiences and outcomes that, in many ways, resemble those of traditionally underrepresented groups like African American and Latino students. Thus this study examined the experiences of those who have succeeded to better understand the supports upon which they have drawn and the obstacles they have navigated.

Through narrative inquiry, this study gives contour and voice to the educational experience and academic life of these students from their own perspectives. More specifically, this study employed narrative representation to retell lived experiences in the form of a chronology. Themes across participants were also examined and presented to honor the voices of other participants and provide deeper insights into the experiences of first-generation Vietnamese American students. The stories of these understudied, disadvantaged students are examined to understand the personal, social, and institutional influences that affect the experience of this population and the possible interactions among these contributing factors as students navigate the K-16 educational pipeline. By means of storytelling, findings elucidate the factors that support the scholastic achievement of first-generation Vietnamese American youth and the barriers that hinder their success using a student retention and anti-deficit approach.

Findings indicate that first-generation Vietnamese American youth navigated the K-16 educational pipeline as active agents with a wealth of capital and great resilience. Like other marginalized students of color, youth in this study arrived at school with aspirational, familial, social, navigational, and resistant capital. Further, collectively, cognitive, social, and institutional factors enhanced students’ ability to persevere and triumph in face of barriers. However, findings also suggest that some assets, such as family and language, were not absolute. In many cases, one form of capital interacted, facilitated, or constrained another form of capital. For instance, while family could be supportive and facilitative of student success, family members and traditions also presented significant barriers for at least some study participants.

Findings from this study inform policy, practice, and future research to facilitate greater participation, engagement, and educational achievement for first-generation Vietnamese American youth, as well as assist other first-generation youth navigate the educational process and create their own college-going tradition. Based on the findings of from this study, policy makers should increase funding for qualified support staff (such as, school counselors, school psychologists, school psychiatrists, school social workers, school-community liaisons, and bilingual aides) to help Vietnamese American youth overcome personal and institutional barriers to success. Schools and colleges should annually develop improvement plans, as well as publicize and evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts to promote minority student and parent engagement.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Haviland, Don
Commitee: Scott, James W., Symcox, Linda
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 76/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian American Studies, Multicultural Education, Higher education
Keywords: Asian american students, Education, First-generation, Narrative inquiry, Vietnamese american students
Publication Number: 3703043
ISBN: 978-1-321-74652-5
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