First Advisor

Dannelle D. Stevens

Date of Publication

Spring 6-6-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum & Instruction




First-generation college students, Hispanic American college students



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 326 pages)


Latina/o first-generation college students, along with their families, are learning a new culture when considering going to four-year universities. While the conversation involving Latina/o first-generation college students can often focus on attrition, I am interested in exploring what, from participants' point of view, are the successes they experience as well as the most challenging obstacles they encounter on their journey to graduating from four-year universities. Employing the theoretical frameworks of constructivism, critical race theory, and cultural capital, the purpose of this study was to go beyond the conversation of Latina/o first-generation college student attrition by examining how they navigate postsecondary institutions and explore the implications associated with how higher education affects them. I intend to highlight the already powerful voices of Latina/o first-generation college students who are brave enough to be the first in their immediate families to embark on a demanding odyssey to attain four-year degrees. My participants were recruited from classes in the Chicano/Latino studies department as well as a cultural resource center, both at a four-year university in the Pacific Northwest. Using qualitative research methods, including semi-structured interviews, Draw-A-College-Student, and participant written reflections, I examined the lived experiences of persisting Latina/o first-generation college students from their own perspectives. To provide a well-rounded account of the Latina/o postsecondary experience, I engaged the voices of eight participants in this study. This research found that while Latina/o first-generation college students feel that they are trailblazers in working to improve family life through education, they often feel unseen and underrepresented in higher education. Through highlighting Latina/o first-generation college student voices and experiences instead of just focusing on attrition, this study also recommends actions for change based on participant feedback. Ultimately, participants in this study felt that more support is needed for Latina/o first-generation students to attain four-year degrees in higher education.


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