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A Case Study of Undergraduate Muslim American Students’ Sense of Belonging at a Historically Christian University in Southern California

Raid A Faraj, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This qualitative single-case study illuminates the experiences impacting the sense of belonging of undergraduate Muslim American students at a historically Christian institution in Southern California. The primary data source relied on the student interviews, and the secondary data sources included a staff interview, observations, and document analysis. Ten undergraduate students and one staff member were interviewed. The following grand tour question guided the study: Within the context of the University, how do Muslim American students describe their sense of belonging? A systematic first and second cycle coding and triangulation resulted in the emergence of multiple positive themes related to the students’ sense of belong. Among the key positive themes that enhanced the students’ sense of belonging was the students’ feeling welcomed and accepted during the admissions process. Additionally, the presence of the interfaith center, the Muslim Student Association (MSA), the Muslim chaplain, and interfaith programming made the students feel cared about, welcomed, accepted, connected, valued, and respected. At the same time, results suggested that approximately half of the students had negative experiences due to the lack of Muslim representation among students, staff, and faculty. Moreover, seven students were subjected to stereotypes, religious microaggressions, and exclusion due to their ethnicity or values/social norms. These findings adversely impacted the students’ sense of belonging and left them feeling alienated, less welcomed, less accepted, and less valued at the University. Based on these findings, implications for the University, higher education, and society are highlighted, and recommendations for future research are made.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Faraj, Raid A, "A Case Study of Undergraduate Muslim American Students’ Sense of Belonging at a Historically Christian University in Southern California" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI27539895.