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Career Building Among Asian American Immigrant Community College Students in Nebraska: A Phenomenological Study

Minerva D Tuliao, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Asian Americans are becoming the fastest growing minority group, and enrolling at community colleges at a faster rate compared to 4-year institutions. In Nebraska, they represent approximately a quarter of the community college student population, comprise 2.3% of the state’s population, and 7% of the state’s workforce. Despite their increasing numbers, very little is known about Asian Americans in the community college, including issues related to workforce transitions. Within a social cognitive career theory framework (SCCT), this qualitative study explored what career building means to Asian American immigrant community college students in Nebraska. Asian Americans in community colleges are typically invisible in discussions about underrepresented populations in higher education, especially in new settlement states like Nebraska. Scholars argue that this invisibility is primarily due to the model minority myth, which assumes that Asian Americans belong to a homogenous, successful, genetically superior group that does not need support (Ching & Agbayani, 2012; Museus & Park, 2015; Nadal, 2011; Suzuki, 2002). By uncovering salient factors affecting Asian American immigrants’ meaning of career building, findings of this study offer important implications for research and practice for this population. Twenty one foreign-born Asian/Asian American students participated in this study to describe their experiences about building careers at two community colleges in Nebraska. Findings revealed four overarching components representing the core of building a career: opportunity. Opportunity is realized through three essential processes of Leaning (seeking support), Leveraging (learning from immigrant experiences), and Leading (self-direction). Additionally, the interplay of person, context, and work knowledge variables were consistently highlighted in participants’ experiences, supporting literature that emphasizes the importance of context in career transitions of immigrant college students of color. Participants also experienced challenges due to their immigrant or financial status, rather than their race. Support from bilingual counselors and ethnic communities were critical in career building. Implications for research include the consideration of job-matching, context, and generational perspectives and racial self-identification in the development of career theory for Asian Americans.

Subject Area

Community college education|Higher Education Administration|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Tuliao, Minerva D, "Career Building Among Asian American Immigrant Community College Students in Nebraska: A Phenomenological Study" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10842928.