Date of Degree
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arthur E. Hernandez
Ashley S. Love
Andrea Guerrero Guajardo
Research Focus. Most of the current research focusing on Latinas succeeding academically has been conducted at the undergraduate and master’s level. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the experience of Latinas in their doctoral program and what leads them to complete a doctoral degree. Latinas currently have low completion rates in doctoral degrees compared to all other ethnicities in the U.S. Thus, the goal of this research study was to identify factors that contribute to these Latinas succeeding academically.
I used both Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Latino Critical Race Theory (LatCrit) to address the issue of race, gender, and racism in the doctoral education setting. To understand what lead them to complete a doctoral degree, the stories of nine Latinas participants lived experiences in completed their doctoral degree in the last years five years was documented through their testimonios. Through their testimonios, I explored in hopes of finding common themes that can suggest how these experiences influenced these, Latinas. Through these stories I explored the phenomena for insight and perspective which can explain the reasons for the differences in doctoral degree attainment rates. Snowball sampling was used to identify participants since, among other things, it is essential to select participants interested in the topic and willing to share their information-rich experiences so the researcher can gain in-depth information and address the research questions. The sample size for the study was determined by saturation (Mason, 2010, p. 16; Morse, 2015, 587). I conducted interviews via Zoom, Facetime, or another digital meeting platform due to constraints imposed by the response to the novel Corona Virus (COVID-19).
Research Results/Findings. Four themes emerged from my analysis: experiencing support system, motivating factors, barriers, and lack of understanding from other people. First, the women all described things that happened in their lives, which could have been a deterrence to degree completion or what I describe as barriers. But when the Latinas described these events, they always proceeded to tell me how they faced these hurdles. I also looked for/at motivational factors. They reported the importance of a support system comprised of husbands, friends, co-workers, parents, and family. Lastly, the women described the importance of understanding of what being in a Ph.D. program entails. The Latinas in this research questioned, “How many people do not understand what that space looks like unless they have been through this process?”. The stories of these women were not identical. However, they all talked about how they stayed focused and motivated, their support system and barriers, and how through these supportive environments and internal decision-making, they successfully achieved their doctoral degree. The stories of my study participants have not just given me a discovery of factors and variables that contributed to these Latinas completing a doctoral degree, but the dynamic nature of the interaction with the individual.
Conclusions From Research. In conclusion, when listening to my participants stories and comparing it to mine, I have learned that we no longer see traditional cultural (including gender) obligations as duties we need to fulfill. I also believe Latinx cultural expectations are embedded with my study participants and myself. As CRT mentions that since racism is socially embedded in our society it becomes invisible and “normal”. I truly believe my study participants and I no longer see cultural obligations and gender roles as barriers, but as embedded in everyday normal activities. I make this conclusion because for example, to keep my study participants answers genuine, I did not ask leading questions, for example, “did you feel discriminated because you are a Latina or do you believe cultural expectations made it harder for you to finish your doctoral degree”. I believe that positive reinforcement from a young age that anything is possible, still understanding and not necessarily adopting Latinx cultural obligations, not allowing gender to determine the path for succeeding and wanting to make a change for other Latinx; are the reasons for my study participants’ success in completing a doctoral degree.
Ballesteros, Jessica, "Latinas Abriendo Caminos: Stories of Latina Women to the Doctoral Degree" (2022). Theses & Dissertations. 395.