Empowered Nepantleras: Borderland Latina graduates’ perceptions of effective institutional support from their four-year Hispanic-serving institutions
Benavides, Alyssa Cervantes
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There exists a critical opportunity gap in Latinx postsecondary education completion, graduation, and degree attainment. The issue of unequal outcomes in degree attainment by Latinxs has only slowly improved over the past two decades. Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) are enrolling the majority of the nation’s Latinx college student population, and have an incentivized responsibility to effectuate increases in Latinx college degree attainment. To inform HSIs’ efforts in student support to improve their Latinx students’ college experiences and success to completion (i.e., degree attainment), this qualitative, phenomenological study used pláticas to examine a Latinx subgroup’s student- and institutional-level factors that affect persistence. Specifically, the study was an exploration of the lived experiences of six Borderland Latina graduates from three large public 4-year HSIs that are predominantly, historically White institutions in Texas. The research aimed to provide insight into the students’ identities and unique student needs, the obstacles they encountered in college, and the institutional support students deemed effective that empowered their success to graduation. The theoretical framework that guided this study was a synthesis of the Community Cultural Wealth model and Culturally Engaging Campus Environments model. The findings show that (a) Borderland Latina students at HSIs are family-centered, culturally centered, and college-focused; (b) they use resiliency and drive developed from their lived experiences and inherent in their culture, along with their commitment to their community to empower their success; (c) they assume the role of outsider at HSIs that are predominantly White institutions (PWIs); and (d) they deem effective institutional support efforts that are culturally conscious and culturally centered. This study underscores institutions’ need to understand the intersectional identities and, thus, multilayered student support needs of their Minoritized student populations. It additionally highlights the value of HSIs’ use of student perspectives to design and embed effective, culturally centered practices to improve Latina/Latinx experiences on their campuses and to empower Latina/Latinx student success to graduation.