Exploring Latina stem college student success at southern Hispanic serving higher education institutions




Contreras Aguirre, Hilda Cecilia

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The underrepresentation of females in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, in particular, minority females such as Latinas persists. Multiple studies have addressed such lack of presence by recriminating their race and gender. Fewer researches have focused on Latinas’ assets and their leadership adopted throughout the college pathway to successfully attain their degree. This qualitative inquiry sought a better understanding of ten Latinas’ college experiences as it relates to their persistence and influence of race influencing their STEM degree attainment at two Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). Focusing on the role that peers, faculty, students support services, and family play in Latinas’ college persistence, the findings of the study revealed the guidance and formative role that faculty and students support services have on Latina students both to support them academically and professionally. In addition, the study found the critical role that peers and family play for Latinas by providing emotional support to help, motivate, and inspire them becoming part of their success as STEM college students. Finally, the study concluded that Latinas use multiple strategies and resources (e.g., finding another Latina peer, participating in on-campus organizations, and finding an informal mentor) to meet the program requirements, adjust socially and academically to the campus, and expand their social network. The findings of this study demonstrated the importance of different stakeholders (e.g., peers, professors, and family) for Latinas’ persistence in STEM at two HSIs. To improve Latinas’ self-perception in male-dominated disciplines, further qualitative studies should analyze the hiring practices of STEM faculty, the role of Latina faculty mentors, the counters paces or safe spaces created to navigate the college experience, and the leadership adopted within their field.



hispanic-serving institution (hsi), latina undergraduate college students, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (stem)



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