Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Noah Kasraie


David Campos


Norman St. Clair


Academic achievement in school is a promise for a better future and provides stability for a family. With a growing Mexican-American population in the United States, the need for more research on academic achievement for this demographic is evident. The purpose of this constructivist grounded theory qualitative research was to explore the perceived barriers 13 Mexican-American women overcame as they pursued a higher education. In addition, the sub-question focused on resources used to overcome perceived barriers. Participants were Mexican-American women who completed their terminal or professional degree between 2010–2015. The research design was exploratory and was conducted via an inductive qualitative research approach by using the constructivist grounded theory research design. The constructivist grounded theory design lends itself to be co-constructed by the experience of participants, as well as the researcher. Constructivist grounded theory allowed me to examine the information and co-construct a theory based on different variables connected to each participant. Themes and words were interpretations of the data and are believed to be true. The primary question and sub-question used in the interviews led to answers that shaped the lives of each participant. Open-ended questions allowed participants to express themselves while providing useful information about the experience as Mexican-American women who pursued, and achieved, a higher education.

The constant reoccurrence of adaptation was evident in this study. At different points in their lives, these women adapted to their changing life situations. In order to keep situations moving in a positive direction, these women needed to search for internal strength. All participants encompassed the ability to analyze their situation and identify methods of adapting to change(s). The process of adaptation emphasizes a reflective approach to the circumstance or situation to overcome the affect it has on the individual. Attending and reacting to barriers minimized the long-term affect they had on women in this study. Participants in this study experienced constant transformation. As described by participants, they needed to keep going no matter what. When faced with a challenging situation, fears were faced and the focus remained on the goal. Women in this study reflected on and interpreted the struggles they faced at different times along their journey. In order for transformation to take place, a change (learning) must occur. Participants transformed along their journey. Professional actualization was seen as reaching the end goal of obtaining a professional degree. The pathway to professional actualization was not linear. Not all participants went directly to college after high school. The educational journey took determination and resilience. Through the cultivation of relationships, these women were able to overcome obstacles identified. Those pathways proved to be essential in the success of this group. Professional actualization occurred through the cultivation of relationships.

The substantive theory for this study was termed, Cultivating Relationships as a Pathway to Professional Actualization for Mexican-American Women Pursing a Higher Education. Cultivating relationships was something that provided a positive environment for participants. Mentors and Hispanic organizations were the connections that supported a nurturing environment conducive to learning. Each participant mentioned a relationship that provided continued support (i.e., mentor or Hispanic organization). The need to form relationships appeared early in the interview process. Forming relationships with colleagues, faculty, staff, and administration personnel supported students when help was needed most. Barriers identified in this study may be common among other Mexican-American and Hispanic women or women and men of other ethnicities. Resources utilized by these women are key components, potentially, to help more This study added to the current body of knowledge in a positive way by identifying resources proven to be successful for this group. Mexican-American women need more exposure to successful women who have overcome barriers and continued to excel in every aspect of their career. Hispanic women may benefit from identifying with someone who they admire.