Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Lisa Abrams


Little research has been conducted on Chinese international students’ engagement and belongingness in U.S. universities. This study used a non-experimental quantitative survey research design and adapted survey items from past literature to target Chinese international students’ experiences. Prior to the survey administration, pretesting including expert reviews and a think-aloud were carried out to validate the survey. A total of 76 Chinese students from various universities participated in the survey data collection. The quantitative analytical processes included Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) to ensure construct validity; measurement invariance testing between groups and Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) included four major factors/predictors (English proficiency, years in the U.S., International Student and Scholar office support and racism) that influence Chinese international students’ engagement and belongingness. The findings indicated belongingness positively predicted Chinese international students’ engagement. English language proficiency positively predicted belongingness while racism negatively impacted belongingness after controlling the other predictors in the model. And surprisingly, racism had a direct positive relationship with engagement after controlling for other predictors in the model. To limit concerns around sample size and provide further answers to research purposes, a focus-group interview was conducted with six Chinese international students at one university. Implications were presented within the Ecological System Theory, highlighting the importance of developing evaluation processes of current supporting programs and procedures targeting international students, and raising cultural awareness among faculty and staff. Limitations for this study and recommendations for future research were also discussed.


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