Support from Institutional Agents and Perceptions of Cultural and Institutional Fit Among STEM International Graduate Students in the U.S.


  • Scott M. Myers Montana State University
  • Carrie B. Myers Montana State University
  • Catherine M. Johnson Montana State University
  • Shihua Brazill Montana State University



Graduate study, STEM education, student experience, interpersonal relationships, culture


This quantitative study aimed to understand the association between different types of support from institutional agents and students’ sense of belonging culturally and structurally at their respective institutions. We used one-of-a-kind primary survey data from a National Science Foundation grant that included nearly 1,000 international graduate students in STEM fields across 12 research institutions in the U.S. Drawing from the theories of cultural synergy and reciprocal adaptation, we proposed that support from all three institutional agents of peers, faculty, and mentors would be important for perceptions of fit but that the cultural aspects of mentor support would emerge as most important. Based on regression findings, we found that all three agents played a positive and statistical role in perceptions of cultural and structural fit. However, the results suggested that peer support played the largest role in promoting better perceptions of a sense of belonging culturally and institutionally.  

Author Biographies

Scott M. Myers, Montana State University

SCOTT MYERS, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at Montana State University, USA. His research interests include student development and racial differences in academic outcomes both through a sociology of education perspective. He is a member of a research team that focuses on international and ethnic minority graduate students in STEM programs. Email:

Carrie B. Myers, Montana State University

CARRIE MYERS, PhD, is a Professor in the Adult and Higher Education Program at Montana State University, USA. Her current research examines the contextual vagaries of higher education institutions and their faculty and the shapes and forms of K-20 educational trajectories and transitions. Through an NSF grant, she is also researching how international and ethnic minority students navigate STEM graduate programs. Email:

Catherine M. Johnson, Montana State University

CATHERINE M. JOHNSON, PhD, is a Program Evaluator and Researcher in the College of Nursing at Montana State University, USA. Her major research interests are identity, intercultural communication, and graduate education and college students in higher education. Her evaluation research focuses on analyzing effective practices for continuous improvement towards institutional transformation. She investigates postsecondary and graduate student identity and role acquisition, and the ways policies influence practices that foster culturally responsive mentoring and research environments across university disciplines. Email:

Shihua Brazill, Montana State University

SHIHUA BRAZILL, PhD, is an Instructional Designer for the Center for Faculty Excellence and an instructor for Multicultural Education at Montana State University, USA. Her major research interests lie with international students, diversity and identity in E-learning, curriculum design, inclusive education, web-based pedagogy, graduate students’ socialization experiences, and multiculturalism.  Email:


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How to Cite

Myers, S., Myers, C., Johnson, C., & Brazill, S. (2023). Support from Institutional Agents and Perceptions of Cultural and Institutional Fit Among STEM International Graduate Students in the U.S. Journal of International Students, 13(4), 68–87.



Research Articles (English)