Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Constructing Possible Selves: Korean American Students in Community Colleges
by Choi, Hye Jung, Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2018, 227; 13422844
Abstract (Summary)

Asian Americans are generally considered an educationally and economically successful minority in the United States, a perception known as the model minority myth. These images can negatively impact Asian Americans, especially in higher education, by neglecting their challenges and limiting the research conducted related to their struggles and obstacles in higher education. Since most studies involving Asian Americans focus on their enrollment in elite universities, there is not much recognition of Asian Americans in community colleges. This study focuses on one specific subgroup of Asians, Korean Americans. Although this group is more likely to attend highly selective colleges regardless of socioeconomic status, I focus on the Korean American students who attend community colleges.

This study aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of Korean American students attending community colleges and how their perceptions and experiences influence the construction of their possible selves. More specifically, this study examined the opportunities and obstacles they experienced in community college and how these experiences intersected with model minority myths. This study also focused on the possible selves Korean American students might construct while attending community college. Possible selves are “representations of the self in the past and they include representations of the self in the future” (Markus & Nurius, 1986, p. 954) and various self-conceptions that include “the good selves, the bad selves, the hoped-for selves, the feared selves, the not-me selves, the ideal selves, and the ought-selves” (Markus & Nurius, 1986, p. 957). For this study, 29 Korean American community college students were recruited and semi-structured interviews were conducted regarding their high school experiences, community college experiences, and future goals and plans. Through data analysis inspired by a grounded theory approach, 40 codes were developed and three major themes emerged related to the experiences of Korean American students at community college.

The findings showed that before Korean American students attended community colleges, they negatively perceived community colleges as a place for those who did not get into four-year colleges or did not do well in high school, a perception strongly influenced by others such as parents, peers, or members of Korean communities. However, once they attended, many of them had positive experiences through the various academic and career services offered and interactions with faculty and peers. These positive experiences changed Korean American students’ negative views of community colleges. Although positive experiences changed their negative perceptions of community colleges, they consistently encountered negative perceptions from others which conflicted with their positive experiences. Korean American students also constructed various possible selves based on their academic and career goals. Most constructed positive possible selves if they had more specific academic and career goals and as well as the confidence to achieve them. These students thought community colleges helped develop their future goals but were ultimately ambivalent about their attendance at community college. Some believed community college was a foundation or stepping stone for achieving their goals while others thought attending community college would negatively influence their future.

This study is important because it explores an issue to which little scholarly attention has been paid and which has not been thoroughly investigated. Theoretically this study can contribute to the literature on possible selves and Asian Americans in higher education, give a deeper understanding of a particular group in relation to model minority stereotypes, and provide a guide for how to examine multifaceted elements which can influence the understanding of how community college students develop possible selves. This study also has practical benefits: it can promote how to better support Korean American students in order to help them succeed in achieving their goals in higher education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rolon-Dow, Rosalie
Commitee: Matusov, Eugene, Museus, Samuel D., Wang, Carol
School: University of Delaware
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Delaware
Source: DAI-A 77/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Community college education, Educational sociology, Asian American Studies, Ethnic studies, Higher education
Keywords: Community colleges, Korean Americans, Model minority, Possible selves
Publication Number: 13422844
ISBN: 978-0-438-93210-4
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