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Educational Administration & Foundations


Gavin Weiser

Mentor Department

Educational Administration & Foundations


Institutions in higher education strive to increase the diversity of the student population on their campus and expend resources to retain enrollment for students who are marginalized such as Latinx students, African American students, LGBTQ+ students, and students with disabilities to name a few. Many of these students need extra guidance to be successful in college. Beyond these groups, every campus has a certain community that often goes unnoticed. This is because I argue they are a chameleon. Like a chameleon, they change from one experience to another in order adapt to their new environment and culture. Not having a place to call "home," because they are global nomads, the "hidden immigrant", the "man without a country." They are Third Culture Kids. Third Culture Kids (TCK) are individuals who have spent an extended amount of their developmental years living in a country or countries different from their parents' country of origin (Abe, 2018; Bonebright, 2010; Lijadi & Van Schalkwyk, 2017; Melles & Schwartz, 2003; Merchant, 2003; Pollock & Van Reken, 2009; Smith & Kearney, 2016; Third Culture Kids: "Hidden Immigrants" on Campus, 2005) TCK are a growing demographic on college campuses, but little research has been done on this student population. Many of these students return to their parents' country of origin to pursue higher education, but because these students have lived a highly mobile lifestyle, they face many challenges and tend to transfer in and out of multiple institutions before they reach graduation. The TCK population are highly under-researched and underserved hindering student development and the college experience. Through a review of extant literature, I have developed my own developmental theory of Third Culture Kids, what I call the Chameleon Effect Theory, to further understand the hardships of TCK and how educators can aid in their transition into the American higher education system. This poster will introduce how the term Third Culture Kid was coined and how educators can support TCK with the six developmental stages I have created to further grasp the life experiences of an American TCK.

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