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Title:Gente Estudiada: Latina/o students confronting and engaging home/community knowledge within/outside institutions of higher education
Author(s):Marrun, Norma
Director of Research:Mayo, Cris
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mayo, Cris
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lugo, Alejandro; Delgado Bernal, Dolores; Pillow, Wanda
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Higher Education
Undocumented Student Movement
Chicana/Latina Feminisms
Ethnic Studies
Latina/o Students
Abstract:As a group, Latinas/os are transforming the demographic profile of U.S. colleges and universities. More Latinas/os are pursuing postsecondary education with a total of 69% of Latina/o high school graduates enrolling in college compared to 67% of whites (Fry & Taylor, 2013). However, data shows that Latina/o students generally graduate at lower rates compared to whites, and controversies over undocumented young people entering higher education continue. Utilizing a Chicana/Latina feminist approach, this dissertation explores the K-16 lived experiences of Latina/o youth and the ways they grapple with the contradictory nature of education, and their desire to transcend cultural, social, political, and educational boundaries. By infusing a Chicana/Latina epistemological perspective, we can better understand the complex ways Latina/o students contest and navigate the contradictory spaces of home, community, and school. This dissertation critically examines the factors that enable first-generation Latina/o students—documented or undocumented—to persist in higher education and most importantly, to graduate and encourage other community members to also aspire to higher education. A Chicana/Latina feminist ethnographic design was used, and drew upon individual in-depth interviews with ten, first-generation Latina/o college students attending public, 4-year research and teaching universities in California and Illinois, participant observations at various sites (i.e., campus events), classroom observations of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies courses, and an analysis of educational and immigration policies. In addition to their educational experiences, my project builds upon the students’ home and community knowledge, connecting these pedagogies of the home to their college success. Rather than assuming all Latina/o students deal with the same issues, this study examines the influences, challenges, and contradictions of home (family), community, and university from multiple perspectives. As I explored Latina/o students’ narratives of ambivalent but energetic participation in higher education, I learned that there is an untold story about the ambiguity that stems from what Gloria Anzaldúa (1999) refers to as the “new mestiza consciousness,” a consciousness that “sustains contradictions” and “turns the ambivalence into something else” (p. 101). As participants reflected on the pain and growing contradictions between their families and schooling experiences, they sought out spaces like Latina/o and Mexican American Studies courses where through inquiry, reflection, and dialogue, students made sense of opposing ideas and knowledges. These courses helped students acquire the ability to confront and navigate the contradictory spaces of home and school, as well as the language to make sense of their personal and educational experiences. My work introduces the term gente estudiada, a term used in the Latina/o community to refer to people who are college educated. I used this term, not yet part of academic discourse, to underscore the necessity of grounding our understanding of Latina/o higher education in the community that uses this term. My work draws from the resources found in Latino communities, but like Anzaldua’s call for ambiguity, I also critically analyze the very communities that provide support for Latina/o college goers. Findings highlight the ways participants used their families’ stories, dichos (popular proverbs), and consejos (advice) to share the ways they overcame challenges at home and in school. For example dichos were used to teach their children important lessons about being proactive and how to confront and overcome difficult situations in one’s life. My dissertation also examines the ambiguities that constitute undocumented students’ experiences and the ways they navigate higher education sin papeles. Specifically, I highlight the story of one undocumented Latina student’s activism, most notably her participation in Atlanta, Georgia where she and six other students were arrested for protesting against the Georgia Board of Regents for banning undocumented students from enrolling at the top five public universities in the state. I conclude this dissertation with recommendations for academic and student affair practitioners working to support and improve the retention rates for first-generation Latina/o students, as well as immigration advocacy. My work provides useful strategies for improving Latina/o retention by recognizing the important links between home, community, and university experiences.
Issue Date:2015-03-23
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Norma Marrun
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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