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Tamara L. Stachowicz is a 2013 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change.

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The desire to claim an ethnicity may be in response to an institutional and systemic political movement towards multiculturalism where ethnic difference is something to be recognized and celebrated (Jimenez, 2010; Tatum, 1997). Those who were a member of a dominant or advantaged group took that element of their identity for granted (Tatum, 1997). Identity work has included reflections and congruence between how individuals see themselves and how they perceive others to see them, including Optimal Distinctiveness Theory where one determines the optimal amount of individual distinctiveness needed to feel a healthy group and personal identity (Brewer, 2012). When most of the people one is surrounded by can verify and support an accepted identity construction, the process is less complicated, and attention is not drawn to the differences because there are very few, if any. As the dominant culture becomes increasingly bombarded with the celebratory aspects of an ethnic identity, it is likely that one will begin searching for one's own (Jimenez, 2010; Tatum, 1997). This study will present portraits of individuals who are considering an ethnic identity as they are searching for belonging and inclusion from the group with which they desire to identify. In short, through the use of portraiture, I intend to privilege the voices and experiences of several co-researchers as they describe their lives, explain whether or not they have accepted or rejected a Melungeon identity, how they came to that decision, and what it means in their lived experience. This dissertation is accompanied by the author's MP4 video introduction, as well as 15 MP4 videos of the coresearchers who participated in this study (see the List of Supplemental Media Files). The electronic version of this Dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,



Dr. Tammy Stachowicz is the Associate Department Chair, Social Science, College of Arts and Sciences, at Davenport University, Holland [Michigan] Campus.

This dissertation is accompanied by the author's MP4 video Introduction, as well as 15 MP4 videos of the coresearchers who participated in the study. [See Below]