Fostering the Success of Working-Class Latina Doctoral Students at Predominantly White Institutions

Loni Crumb
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 17  •  2022  •  pp. 025-038

Latina doctoral students’ educational experiences are often mediated by their social class status, race, and gender. Latinas have sustained an increasing presence in doctoral programs at various colleges and universities across the United States; yet, they are continually underrepresented in doctoral programs at predominantly White institutions. The author identifies evidence-supported, personal and institutional factors that may contribute to working-class Latina doctoral students’ successful persistence at predominantly White institutions.

The tension between personal identities versus academic capability can make the doctoral education experience academically, socially, emotionally, and financially challenging for Latinas from low-income backgrounds. Latina/Latino Critical Race Theory and Multiracial Feminist Theory are introduced as lenses to examine aspects of the doctoral education experience that may impede or support Latina students’ retention.

As a conceptual article, this paper is an examination of research regarding the experiences of doctoral students of color at predominantly White institutions in the United States and summarizes how Latina doctoral students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds can succeed in these environments.

This article outlines evidence-supported strategies that may influence working-class Latina doctoral students’ successful persistence at predominantly White institutions.

The research highlighted in this article emphasizes how factors such as embracing familismo, increasing faculty diversity, establishing peer networks, and creating inclusive class-concious academic programs and new student orientations, may contribute to the doctoral persistence of Latinas from economically disadvantaged backgrounds attending predominantly White institutions.

Personal and institutional factors are recommended for faculty and student affairs professionals to support the doctoral persistence of Latina students such as embracing personal agency and academic efficacy, embracing familismo, recognizing the myth of meritocracy, establishing peer support networks, creating inclusive academic environments, establishing formal faculty mentorships, and fostering class conscious faculty.

The literature presented in this paper provides ideas for future research opportunities that could further examine how supportive relationships and inclusiveness promote Latina doctoral students’ educational success.

Latinas experience overlapping forms of privilege and subordination depending on their race, social class, gender, sexual orientation, and academic setting.

Further development of transformative research on this topic may improve inclusive educational practices and potentially increase access to doctoral-level education for Latinas and other economically disadvantaged students of color.

Latinas, doctoral education, persistence, social class, Latcrit, Multiracial Feminist Theory, equity, economic disadvantage
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