Muslim women on the Catholic campus: the search for identity, community, and understanding

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Leadership


Advisor: Carolyn R. Benz


American religious diversity has expanded since the 1960s when immigration law changed the geographical map of our immigrant pipeline from Europe to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (Smith, 2002). This demographic change in immigration patterns has affected the population of students not only coming from abroad to study, but also from within the U.S. More Muslim American students are entering colleges in the U.S. than ever before and the number is expected to swell in coming years (Institute of International Education, 2011). American colleges and universities who face the challenge of integrating these new student cultures into their wider institutional cultures will only succeed in doing so by educating faculty and student affairs professionals about their new students. The purpose of this study was an attempt to understand the acculturation experience (Berry, 1997) of female Muslim students at two Catholic universities in the American Midwest. The underlying issue which informed this study was how Muslim women cope and learn in the context of an American, Catholic university. A constructivist epistemology provided the framework for this phenomenological qualitative study, which attempted to discern the ways that Muslim female students adapt to life on the Catholic campus using a bi-dimensional model of acculturation. Eleven female Muslim students were interviewed several times each over the course of five months. The data were then analyzed according to Moustakas (1994) methods for phenomenological analysis and Berry's (1997) bi-dimensional acculturation strategy scale (assimilation, integration, separation or marginalization).


Muslim women Cultural assimilation Middle West 21st century, Catholic universities and colleges Social aspects Middle West 21st century, Cultural pluralism Middle West 21st century, Muslim college students Cultural assimilation Middle West 21st century, Muslim; women; Catholic; acculturation; identity

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2012, author