Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-14-2022


The purpose of this study was to explore the value and meaning that first-generation American Indian students place on higher education. Are these values different from those of the institution and how does that impact their educational journey? Finding purpose and meaning in your education encourages continued commitment to your educational goals. I conducted a single-site qualitative study at a Southwestern Non-Tribal Community University (SWNTCU), collecting data through an arts-based inquiry methodology employing photovoice narrative as a tool. To situate these narratives, I utilized an Indigenous paradigm interweaving Tribal Critical Race Theory, Relationality, and an Indigenous Wellness Model (Brayboy, 2006; Secatero, 2015; Wilson, 2008). The most notable findings of this study were: students’ connections to cultural wealth and knowledge carry substantial meaning that compels one to thrive; education holds fundamental value in one’s pursuit for a better life and developing one’s capacity for leadership and advocacy to ultimately help others.


American Indian, First-Generation, Cultural Value, PhotoVoice, Indigenous Paradigm, Leadership

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Allison M. Borden

Second Committee Member

Shawn L. Secatero

Third Committee Member

Tyson E.J. Marsh

Fourth Committee Member

Patrick Lopez