A Native American undergraduate student is from a rural area of the state and has asked to meet with you. The student is upset because they feel like they do not belong at the university. Describing life on campus as “too different” from what they are used to and feel as though they are “too far from home.”


After a few minutes, the discussion eventually moves to talking about their internship in your lab. The student is conflicted because they have been “taught specific protocols for the treatment of land, animals and plants” and are worried they may be “expected to violate the cultural protocols” they have been taught. Their concerns about working in your lab adds to their larger feeling about not belonging at the university.

Reflection Activity

Ask yourself, what is making the student feel uncomfortable?

  • Are there differences in cultural and community norms around learning (e.g., learning through listening and watching, versus questioning, reading, or literature review)?
  • Is it environmental stressors (e.g., urban versus rural living; being at a predominantly white institution)?
  • Is this the student’s first time away from home, family, out of state or in a new setting (e.g., communal living or a dorm)?
  • Is the student struggling with self-confidence in a new learning and living environment?
  • Are they lacking peer support?
  • Are they uncomfortable about asking questions during class, lab or fieldwork (e.g., insecurity about speaking up for fear of offending someone, of being wrong, afraid of not knowing the answer or sounding arrogant)?

How might you help the student feel more welcome on campus?

What are some ways you could make your lab more inclusive for Native American students?