Karla D. Bird

Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Department or School/College

College of Education and Human Sciences

Committee Chair

Patty Kero

Commitee Members

Annjeanette Belcourt, Dan Lee, John Matt, Nathan Lindsay, Sedelta Oosahwee


University of Montana


The purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine the process of educational persistence among American Indian graduate students attending non-Native colleges and universities in Montana. Specifically, a grounded theory approach was used to generate a theory to describe persistence, using the concepts derived from participant interviews. Participants were American Indian graduate students currently enrolled at the following Montana institutions: University of Montana-Missoula, Montana State University-Bozeman, Montana Tech-Butte, Montana State University-Billings, and Montana State Northern-Havre. This study explored the following central research questions: What is persistence in the context of the American Indian graduate student experience? Why and how do American Indian graduate students persist while attending non-Native colleges and universities in the state of Montana? Data analysis was structured to select one core category as the focus of the theory, with additional detailed categories to form a theoretical model (Strauss & Corbin, 2015; Creswell, 2013). The core category of persistence in this study was a “Vision to serve the community,” with the following supporting categories: identity, skills, and support. It is recommended that Tribal Community Colleges and Universities (TCU’s) expand to include higher leveled degrees, non-Native Colleges and Universities (NNCU’s) reduce institutional barriers for American Indian students, and that the research paradigms become more inclusive of Indigenous research methodologies.



© Copyright 2017 Karla D. Bird