Objectives: Disparities in the rates of matriculation and graduation are of concern to Alaska Native (AN) students and the universities committed to their academic success. Efforts to reduce attrition require a keen understanding of the factors that impact quality of life (QOL) at college. Yet, a long-standing legacy of mistrust towards research poses challenges to conducting inquiry among AN students. We introduced a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbank's Rural Student Services (RSS) and the Center for Alaska Native Health Research (CANHR) within which we conducted the "What makes life good?" study aimed towards developing a QOL measure for AN students. Equally important was building a legacy of research trust among AN partners.
Study design: We describe Phase I of a 2-phase study that employed a sequential mixed methods approach. Discussed are facilitators, challenges and lessons learned while striving to adhere to the principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR).
Methods: Phase I included formative focus groups and QOL measurement development. The research involved the interplay among activities that were co-developed with the goal of enhancing trust and research capacity. Emphasis was placed on ensuring that data collection and analyses were student driven.
Conclusions: All partners resided at the same university. However, trust and collaboration could not be assumed. Working within a collaborative framework, our partnership achieved the aim of developing a culturally informed QOL measure, while also creating an empowering experience for all partners who became co-investigators in a process that might normally be regarded with mistrust.
Keywords: Alaska Native; Community-based participatory research (CBPR); college students; quality of life.