Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation in Practice

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Michael H. Nguyen

Second Advisor

Sarah Hurtado

Third Advisor

Chip Thomas


Alumni, Belongingness, Diversity equity and inclusion (DEI), Self-efficacy, Student support, Worthy witness


This qualitative inquiry evaluated Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) in-house Mountain Scholars Program (MSP) via semi-structured interviews with five of its Latino alumni. This study’s assets-based social justice/transformative philosophical framework included David Fetterman’s methodological empowerment evaluation and Tara Yosso’s conceptual community cultural wealth (CCW) theory. This dissertation in practice examined the gap in literature with regards to an in-house student support services program evaluation that partners with the community and focuses on Latinos’ aspirations and aspirational outcomes. I wanted to be a worthy witness to the student demographic group at CMC, as well as at most American postsecondary institutions, considered the most at-risk for dropping out: first-generation Latinos. A review of the literature showed that successful completion of a postsecondary education for men of color is staggeringly low (Huerta & Hernández, 2021; Martinez & Castellanos, 2017; Ramos, 2018; Rodriguez-Muniz, 2021; Sladek et al., 2020). The federally funded TRIO student support services program is a successful model designed to offer myriad intervention resources for underserved populations, but is often unable to meet the needs of many of CMC’s first-generation Latinx students, especially in Colorado’s rural and expensive mountain towns. Since these limited resources do not meet the needs of its most at-risk students, CMC created the MSP as a mirror wrap-around student support services program to TRIO, but without the federal constraints and with community partnerships.

The study’s research questions asked how the MSP impacts the aspirations and outcomes of its Latino students, and what programmatic elements contribute to these aspirational outcomes. The data suggested that all participants had college aspirations before attending CMC and that the MSP offered important support that allowed for aspirational goals to be met. The MSP offers important interventions and support services that the data suggest create a crucial sense of belongingness leading to degree attainment for study participants.

Since MSP is an ongoing program, the recommendations are formative and meant to offer increased capacity building to normalize college attendance and degree attainment for Latinos. This small study cannot be generalized to all in-house student support services or to all first-generation Latino college students. The MSP is, however, an important example of a successful supportive environment for CMC’s most marginalized students. This study can be seen as a call to action for all institutions to better witness and support all students, especially those who are first-generation college-going students and new to the collegiate system. Recommendations include being a worthy witness and by intentionally creating opportunities that foster a sense of student belongingness.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
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Publication Statement

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

Rights Holder

Laura Anne Bruch


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


174 pgs

File Size

1.5 MB


Higher education, Social psychology, Educational leadership