Date of Award

Fall 2021

Project Type

Dissertation

Program or Major

English

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

Second Advisor

Cristy Beemer

Third Advisor

Soo Hyon Kim

Abstract

Perceptions of international multilingual students from the university community have a significant impact on those students’ identities and status on campus. These perceptions construct narratives of the ideal international multilingual student, which is defined by an optimal set of student characteristics that appear to be divorced from factors of race, gender, and accent. This dissertation examines the concept of the ideal international multilingual student in intersection with factors of race, gender, and accent. This qualitative, IRB-approved study draws from the model of investment (Norton 2000, 2013; Darvin & Norton, 2015; De Costa & Norton, 2017) and the concept of racialization of the body (Ahmed, 2002) to provide an understanding of the construction and effects of narratives of ideal multilingual students in academic communities.Through the analysis of photovoice with students, surveys and interviews of faculty and students, student writing, and course materials, This study considers three research questions: 1) How does the academic community narrate and construct the identities of multilingual students in classrooms and on campus?, 2) How do college-level multilingual writers narrate their identities in relation to language learning, race, and accent? Do students perceive the host academic community as privileging certain accents or races, when it comes to classroom performance and academic writing?, and 3) How do college-level multilingual writers narrate their identities in relation to university community acceptance around the intersectionality between race/ethnicity and gender? In this study, I found that the ideal international multilingual student was constructed as a person who is outgoing, confident, has strong English language abilities, and seeks out relationships with U.S. faculty and peers; this narrative has significant effects on international multilingual students’ identities, particularly for students who do not fit this definition. The study also reveals the limitations of the ideal international multilingual student myth, by examining the ways in which this myth falsely constructs the university community as a meritocracy where hardworking international multilingual students can gain full access to social and academic opportunities. These findings point to the need for TESOL professionals to examine the racial, linguistic, and gendered biases underpinning the narrative of the ideal multilingual student and challenge such narratives within their institutions.

Available for download on Thursday, September 15, 2022

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