Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Do All Asian Americans Feel Alike? Exploring Asian American College Students' Sense of Belonging on Campuses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Hyun Kyoung Ro (Committee Co-Chair)

Second Advisor

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Christina Lunceford (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Steve Boone (Other)


Sense of belonging on campus has been identified as one of the most important factors that affect college students’ persistence, retention, and graduation. The purpose of this quantitative research was to explore the within-group heterogeneity of sense of belonging among Asian American undergraduate students on campus. Specifically, I explored how institutional context, campus involvement, and students’ experiences with diversity and campus climate related to sense of belonging. I also examined if there were differences in sense of belonging across Asian American student ethnic groups and if there were differences in the variables that significantly related to each ethnic group’s sense of belonging. The theoretical framework used to ground this study was Astin’s (1993) “Input-Environment-Outcome” (I-E-O) college impact model. A critical quantitative paradigm was used. I analyzed data from the 2015 Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) which included responses from 6,609 Asian American college students from over 90 higher education institutions.

This study found that sense of belonging among Asian American college students varied by ethnicity. Korean American students’ sense of belonging was significantly lower than the overall sense of belonging level of All Asian Americans. Asian Indian students, on the other hand, reported a higher level of sense of belonging on campus, relative to the overall sense of belonging level in the sample. Factors significantly related to sense of belonging of students also varied by ethnicity. For example, number of types of academic-based experiences engaged was positively related to multi-racial Asian Americans’ sense of belonging, but negatively related to that of Filipino American students.

Future research is needed to assess the impact of the quality of campus involvement on sense of belonging and to understand why same factors related to each ethnic groups’ sense of belonging to various degrees. As campus educators, including faculty, staff, and other personnel, work to connect Asian American college students to the campus community, they also need to move away from a color-blind approach toward a culturally responsive approach that acknowledges and celebrates students’ diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and country of origin. The finding that factors related to sense of belonging varies by ethnicity indicates that a one-size-fits-all approach to improving their sense of belonging on campus is inadequate and inappropriate. Programs and resources should be tailored to the needs of different segments of the Asian American population.