Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


What is Hawaiian?: Explorations and Understandings of Native Hawaiian College Women's Identities

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Maureen Wilson (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Vikki Krane (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Patricia Kubow (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart (Committee Member)


This qualitative study used narrative data to explore and understand eight Native Hawaiian college women’s conceptions of identity. The utilization of personal storytelling and narrative provided opportunities for deeper exploration and understandings of Hawaiian identity. In addition, the use of Tribal Critical Race Theory (TribalCrit), identity performance constructs, and intersectionality research helped framed the study and provided lenses that acknowledged the impact colonization, societal expectations, and performance of self had on identity construction and understanding.

The findings revealed that although all of the women acknowledged the importance of different facets of their identities, their Hawaiian cultural identities were the most significant for each of them. In-depth interviews enabled exploration of their definitions and conceptions of Hawaiian identity. Participants reflected on their experiences involving identity performance, cultural competency, and validation and described ways in which facets of their identities intersected to create unique lived experiences. In addition, participants reflected on their university experiences and discussed how the college experience shaped their understandings of identity.