Exploring Latina Acculturation Stress Experiences While Studying Agriculture at a Hispanic-serving Institution



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Latina students are part of a rapidly growing higher education student population. Title V eligible institutions (proxy for “Hispanic-serving Institutions”) are in a unique position to offer support for this specific population because funding for research and services for Latinx students is available. Despite the Hispanic-serving Institution label, these students still experience microaggressions and other encounters that cause acculturation stress. Acculturation stress, similar to psychological stress in the brain, causes an influx of stress chemicals in the brain. When these stress chemicals are consistently high in the brain, outcomes include: loss of stress resiliency, memory loss, and negative mental health symptoms (anxiety, depression). As Latina students are experiencing acculturation stress in addition to normative student and psychological stress, they are at higher risk of experiencing these negative outcomes. This case study used qualitative methods to explore the impact of acculturation stress on Latina students studying Agriculture at a Hispanic-serving Institution. More specifically, how Latina students experience acculturation stress, how they coped with this stress, and how stress impacted their academic performance. Participants were current Latina Agriculture students at the institution, and participants in a student organization. The criteria of being in a student organization provided another context of inquiry for participant experience. The methods used for gathering data included: interview, observation, and anonymously submitted survey. Data gathered was coded and organized according to themes presented. Results identified were participants are experiencing acculturation stress in their academic settings, they are coping by finding a sense of belonging in their communities, both Agriculture and Hispanic, and are shifting their stress to motivation to do better academically. Recommendations are to increase representation of Latina agriculturalists, support pathways for academic and occupational mentorship, and shift current Latinx faculty and staff to front facing engagements early in students academic experiences.



Latina student, acculturation stress, Hispanic-serving Institution, Agriculture