- Community and technical colleges in the United States are experiencing an expansion of racial and ethnic diversity in students, faculty, and administrators. From 1996 to 2006, the number of Asian female college students increased 55.3%, from 13,184 to 20,477. The number of Asian male students increased 48.9%, from 9,731 to 14,493 (Aud et al, 2010). According to the American Association of Community Colleges, Asian/Pacific Islander students made up 7% of students in the 1,032 U.S. public two-year colleges, only 1% of U.S. higher education administrative positions (including executive positions) are held by people of Asian descent (AACC, 2010). It is crucial to recognize the complexity of diversity and unique needs of each individual, as the colleges are designed to help students achieve their educational and personal goals. As a new emerging group in higher education, Chinese immigrant women who are middle-level administrators play a role as important as that of other leaders. Yet current the literature include very limited information about this population. In addition, addressing the barriers and challenges that these women overcome will assist administrators as they work to create more effective work environments.
This study explored the work experiences of adult Chinese immigrant female middle-level leaders at West Coast community and technical colleges. Because this is an emerging population, the numbers of these women is continuing to grow, however, the number of mid-level leaders who are Chinese immigrants is small and consequently the population for this study was limited. Of the five participants, all five were born in Mainland China or Hong, Kong, they are between 28 and 50 years old. Except one participant, who currently holds a working visa, the other four women became U.S. citizens within the past ten years.
Five Chinese immigrant female administrators were interviewed in this case study. A case study is "an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon in depth and within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident" (Yin, 2009, p.18). This research method provided a tool for this study to explore the life experiences and perspectives of this emerging population. Therefore, a descriptive holistic multiple-case study with single units of analysis was used as a research method. The constant comparative analytic process offered a more comprehensive hermeneutic framework and provided an in-depth understanding of the status of adult female Chinese immigrants in middle-level administrator positions at community colleges in Oregon and Washington.
The common factors that were shared among these female administrators that influenced them were mentoring from their peers and supervisors, networking within their workplaces and in their communities, and being reflective practitioners. Language barriers, limited professional development opportunities, and work-personal life conflict were identified as work-related issues that impact their ability to grow in their positions.
The results of this study indicated that, according to these participants, more needs to be done to help them grow professionally and to provide support for their unique needs. Additionally, this study contributed to fill a gap in the literature by offering a thoughtful review of middle-level Chinese female adult immigrants who work at West Coast Community and Technical Colleges. In addition, this study also provided insightful information to administrators in community and technical colleges who seek to improve the diversity awareness of minority populations, especially the Chinese American female administrators on campus.