University of Illinois at Chicago
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An Investigation of Strength: Refugee Students’ Success in Higher Education

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posted on 2019-08-01, 00:00 authored by Emily M Bray
The world is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis (Butler, 2015; UNHCR Figures at a Glance, 2018), and refugee education, specifically higher education, is an understudied issue that has large individual and community implications. Refugee higher education is important economically and socially in both resettlement communities and during national rebuilding efforts (Dryden-Peterson, 2011a; Golden & Katz, 2009; Morlang & Stolte, 2008; Stevenson & Willott, 2007). Yet only 1% of refugee people of college age are in school, compared to 34% globally (UNHCR). The aim of this constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) study is to examine the experiences of refugee background undergraduate students using semi-structured interviews and explore refugee college students’ perceptions and experiences of success, the supports and difficulties that have both facilitated and challenged their success in college, and the types of additional supports and resources that might be useful to them and others. Findings reflected three large thematic groupings that help provide insight into the refugee college experience: visibility, harnessing the power of the refugee experience, and reinterpreting success as balance. Within the theme of balance, six area emerged as necessary for students to achieve balance: traditional academic success, a safe and comfortable environment, community and human connection, health, obligation management, and identity.



Roy, Amanda


Roy, Amanda



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Birman, Dina Suarez-Balcazar, Yolanda Weine, Stevan Farruggia, Sue

Submitted date

August 2019

Thesis type



  • en

Issue date


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