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The purpose of this study was to add to the growing body of research aimed at deciphering the unique identity development experiences of multiracial college students. In doing so, this particular study sought to explore the process for self-identified multiracial students attending a Mid-western predominately white institution. Personal interviews and a focus group were utilized to delve into the students’ stories, and the participants’ pathways through negotiating their racial identities were linked with Renn’s (2004) ecological identity development patterns. The result was an in-depth and critical understanding of how a predominately white institution places multiracial students in an unsupportive environment, where they are often forced into racial identities that they might not have otherwise chosen for themselves.
This study explored how five self-identified multiracial students’ experiences attending a predominately white institution led to Renn’s (2004) ecological patterns of multiracial identity development through the completion of five interviews and one focus group. The following sub-themes emerged from the analysis of the participants’ connection to Renn’s (2004) five ecological patterns of multiracial identity development: “I think diversity is important,” “I am proud of my heritage,” “I’ll switch back and forth between my identities,” “Identifying as ‘x’ and ‘y’ – that’s key,” “Why can’t you be both,” “I classify for ease, but this is who I really am,” “People like me only happen in America,” “I’m racially ambiguous,” “Too Black to be White, too White to be Black,” and “The amount of non-White people is very low.” The results from this qualitative study indicated that the process of identity development for multiracial students attending a predominately white institution is highly influenced by the environment, leaving them little agency in determining how they racially identify and forcing them to enter situational modes of identity. Implications for multiracial student identity development, as well as, student affairs practitioners are provided. Additionally, recommendations for future research are reviewed.