Campus Location

Dallas Campus (Online)

Date of Award


Document Type



Organizational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Myron Pope

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Scott Strawn

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Jason Morris


For the Pacific Islander (PI) student-athlete, the need to understand the influences of their culture and ethnicity within mostly White educational institutions has emerged as a phenomenon that has created a gap in educational achievement among the PI students in higher education. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the self-determination/motivation of our PI male student-athletes (Hawaiian, Samoan, and Tongan) who have participated in intercollegiate athletics and the influence that these traits have had on their development and growth, academically and socially. A qualitative approach allowed the researcher to understand the human connection by observation with an insider perspective that could result in a more beneficial outcome of the study (Saldaña & Omasta, 2017). Utilizing an ethnographic perspective, the hope was to gain an understanding of how motivation and self-determination are developed, along with how social and cultural capital played a role in the PI culture, and how our institution could continue to foster the growth in our student-athletes. With a high percentage of PI male student-athletes, the goal was to interview a total of six male football players. Two Hawaiian, two Samoan, and two Tongan males were selected using purposeful sampling. The data collection for this research study was conducted by using semistructured interviews with the six participants. Study participants found that self-motivation, determination, and persistence from within, encouragement from family, coaches, and teammates were a significant factor in their successes. Students believed that the institution provided support in the forms of books, academic counseling, and employment but would have liked to see more courses directly related to Pacific Islanders, more faculty that represent their culture, and an academic cohort specifically related to PI students.

Keywords Pacific Islanders, self-determination, motivation, retention, athletics

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Sunday, December 07, 2025