Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Higher Education

First Advisor

Sarah S. Hurtado

Second Advisor

Judy Marquez Kiyama

Third Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher


Chicana feminism, LatCrit, Latina, Student success, Testimonio


Utilizing testimonio methodology grounded in LatCrit and Chicana Feminism, this research centered the voices of 11 Latina undergraduates attending a 4-year private, predominantly white institution in the Western U.S. to understand how they defined and measured their own success in higher education. Traditional success measures focus on the institution's dominant measures, such as graduation and persistence rates. These success measures do not fully represent Latina/o/x values nor how Latinas undergraduates define their own success in higher education. This research revealed that Latina undergraduates define their success by academic achievement, career attainment, Latina/o/x values of familismo and comunidad, and their own personal growth and wellbeing. While the Latina undergraduates in this study embraced academic achievement and career attainment, which align with dominant measures of student success, they also shared student success beliefs that more closely aligned with their Latina/o/x values. As such, the Latina undergraduates in this study were finding ways to balance both dominant measures of success and those that honored their Latina/o/x values to heal their bodymindspirit split.

The rising number of Latinas attending college and the Latina undergraduates in this study demonstrated that Latinas are committed to higher education and see it as a means to reach their goals. However, it is unknown if higher education institutions provide the support Latina undergraduates need to achieve their self-defined goals and student success beliefs connected to their Latina/o/x values. In this research, Latina undergraduates also shared what institutional support they have received and have not received from their institution to achieve their self-defined goals. This research revealed that their higher education institution supported Latina undergraduates with academic opportunities through affinity groups, support programs, and validation from faculty, staff, and peers. However, many challenges were still hindering Latina undergraduates from reaching all of their self-defined goals, including a lack of representation and sense of belonging, racism and discrimination, and the labor of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion on their campus. Despite these obstacles, the findings demonstrated that Latina undergraduates are nepantleras who were able to embrace la facultad to see how higher education was able to help them become exitosas on their own terms.

This research centered the testimonios of 11 Latina undergraduates attending a 4- year PWI in the Western U.S. to understand better how they define and measure success for themselves in higher education. With a better understanding of Latina undergraduates, higher education institutions can better support them as they work towards their own selfdefined goals. As such, this research study shares implications for both higher education research and practice.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Lauren R. Contreras

File size

243 pgs

File format





Higher education, Ethnic studies, Women's studies