Muslim students at an American university: A postmodern ethnography in new millennium

Date of Completion

January 2003


Education, Administration|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Education, Higher




The demographic changes taking place in American society are having an impact on American higher education. Research on multicultural and minority education by Banks (1997), Grant (1992), Ogbu and Gibson (1991), Welch (1992), and Levey (1998) are examples of the proliferation of scholarly writings responding to the challenges of the new demographics. No research focuses on the needs of Muslim students studying on American college or university campuses. For the purposes of this research, the terms “America” and “American” are intended to reference the United States of North America. ^ This research, a postmodern ethnography, explores the experiences of Muslim students in U.S. higher education, with emphasis on students at Brandeis University, a Jewish-sponsored, non-sectarian university. A constructivist paradigm provides a frame for the study. W. E. B. DuBois' (1903) theory of double-consciousness provided the theoretical rationale. In addition to DuBois' theory, Goffman's (1981) work on communicative interaction and Bunz' (1997) work on culture shock added to the theory that drives this study. Three research questions have been generated with the intent of gaining a greater insight into the experiences and needs of Muslim college students. Techniques used included participant observation, video-taped unstructured interviews, documentary search, and a demographic questionnaire which was used to gather individual demographic information from participants. ^ A purposive sample of 25 students was chosen to participate in this study. Data analysis was ongoing with, and after, data collection. Various strategies were used to assure the trustworthiness of the study and included: Credibility, Transferability, Dependability, and Confirmability. ^ The study revealed some powerful concepts, in response to question 2 (e.g., They Don't Know Much At All). In response to question 3, a colorful model was drafted which represents the experiences of the participants in the study. ^ Because nothing was identified in the scholarly literature that focused on the experiences of Muslim students on American college and university campuses, this research will add to scholarly literature in many areas including student development theory, student satisfaction, students' religious life, diversity and multiculturalism on college campuses, as well as recruitment and retention theory. ^