The Academic Experiences of First-Generation Latina Doctoral Students




Perez-Holt, Alejandra Guadalupe

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The purpose of this dissertation was to understand the experiences of first-generation Latina doctoral students through their educational journey. Included in this dissertation were Latina doctoral students who identified as Mexican-American, were first generation students and attended the doctoral program part time. Each participant was still in their coursework phase of the doctoral program. This study was guided by one principal research question: • How do first-generation Latina doctoral students portray their academic experiences? A qualitative multiple case study research design was used through open ended interviews. The data collection method of testimonio was primarily used during interviews to create a different role than researcher for myself during interviews. The theoretical framework of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989) and LatCrit (Ladson-Billing & Tate, 1995; O'Connor, 1997) guided this dissertation to recognize the complexities of the identities of the Latina participants. Three different themes were identified across the three participants: a) persistence in higher education, b) support for the Ph.D. journey, and c) the evolving Latina identity. A cross-case analysis identified the similarities and difference between the three participants within the themes identified. This dissertation identified one key finding: a) self-advocacy. Each participant showed to grow into the ability to seek help when needed. It was a learned skill that came with experience in transitioning between undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs. The implications for practice from this dissertation encourage academic programs to utilize cohort models at the undergraduate level to help offset the lack of community and identity for first-generation Latina students. The use of the cohort model at an early stage of higher education would teach students to self-advocate at an earlier stage in their journey.


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First-generation Latina doctoral students



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies