Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EDD)


Educational and Psychological Studies (Education)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Soyeon Ahn

Second Committee Member

Carol-Anne Phekoo

Third Committee Member

Debbiesiu Lee

Fourth Committee Member

Moataz Eltoukhy


Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) international students are among the largest and most rapidly growing populations studying at U.S. colleges and universities, yet little is known about their academic and social engagement on campus. The literature on this student population shows that MENA international students arrive in the United States with a set of particular challenges that inhibit their potential to fully engage academically and socially during their college experience. These challenges include language barriers, difficulty adapting to the American classroom teaching style, culture shock, and cultural differences (Abo Rabia, 2015; Al Murshidi, 2014; Burt, 2004; Carty et al., 1998; Hall, 2013; Mostafa, 2006; Rababah, 2002). For most MENA international students, the language, classroom teaching style, and culture of American higher education are new and foreign elements that affect their academic and social engagement far greater than that of other students; the root of these challenges are differences in education pedagogical systems as well as cultural differences between the MENA region and the United States. This study examines whether the academic and social engagement of MENA international students in U.S. higher education institutions differ by individual characteristics such as gender, socioeconomic status, parental education, and country of citizenship, and by precollege factors such as expectations, aspirations, type of high school, perceived high school preparedness, and participation in high school co-curricular activities. The specific research questions are: (1) To what extent do precollege factors vary by the individual characteristics of MENA international students?; (2) To what extent do the individual characteristics and specific precollege factors of MENA international students vary by type of high school?; (3) Do MENA international students’ academic and social engagement on campus vary by individual characteristics?; and (4) Do MENA international students’ academic and social engagement on campus vary by precollege factors? The sample for this study included 38 MENA international students enrolled in five different universities throughout the United States. Study findings suggest that the significant mean difference in precollege factors and individual characteristics was determined by the students’ type of high school. Additionally, paternal education had a significant effect on students’ perceived academic engagement, and participation in high school co-curricular activities had a significant effect on students’ social engagement. The implications of this study include major suggestions for reforming the MENA educational system and classroom teaching style, especially in the public sector, to better prepare aspirant MENA students to fully engage at U.S. colleges and universities. Further, given the current U.S. political climate and ongoing hostility toward MENA individuals, institutional leaders, student affairs professionals, and faculty should accommodate the cultural differences of MENA students and effectively help them adapt to the culture of U.S. higher education for a fruitful college experience.


MENA; Arab; International Students; Student Engagement; Student Involvement; Precollege Characteristics

Available for download on Saturday, July 25, 2020