Senior Honors Thesis (2019-2020)

Project Overview

Program—UW Anthropology; Departmental Honors
Theme—“Family is Everything”: Importance of Embracing Family for Indigenous College Students’ Educational Success and Leadership Development (Thesis Advisor Dr. Holly Barker)
Region—North America
Places—Duwamish, University of Washington (Seattle)
Dates—1 April 2019 thru 12 June 2020

Final Field Study Project—The thesis document is available upon request.

Overview: At the University of Washington where Indigenous (Pacific Islander, Native American and Alaska Native) students make up 2.4% of the student population, Indigenous students continue to maintain close relationships with their kin and non-kin families while shaping new ones at school. This study explores fluid definitions of “family” that emerged from my research. I interviewed 20 Indigenous students at the University of Washington to learn more about how they express “family” in the college context. The study brings forth diverse voices of Indigenous students who express the importance of kin and non-kin “family” in their retention and successes at UW. Findings suggest that UW families support students to heal from traumas, maintain community continuity, and build relationships. My data also suggests culturally relevant definitions of families are important yet lacking in UW’s efforts to recruit and retain Indigenous
students. When the institution limits Indigenous students’ expressions of community and cultural identity, Indigenous students become alienated from mainstream spaces on campus. This research is important because it highlights, for UW faculty and professional staff who work with Indigenous students, the inseparability of “family” and academics and its relationship to community wellbeing.

Funding: The thesis was awarded a Curtis Wienker Anthropology Award for Best Honors Thesis.