Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Kathleen Peno


Open-access community colleges in the United States are serving more students from historically marginalized communities than 4-year colleges while also educating half of college students in the United States today. However, educational systems of higher education are structured in a way that individual students may not effectively navigate higher education and the career opportunities that come with it. Better understanding how community college students experience, and how they navigate institutions of higher education, can/could enable colleges to adjust their organizational structures, processes, or practices to support easier navigation. Drawing on the Bioecological Model of Human Development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006) and Community Cultural Wealth (Yosso, 2005) frameworks, this study employs photovoice and participant-generated methods (Wang & Burris, 1997); the goal was to amplify community college students’ perspectives with the expectation that they change policies by depicting areas for investment and transformation for college administrators and decision-makers’ and informed directly from the students’ vantage points.

This research contributes to the field of social justice movements in education by providing recommendations for how community college administrators and decision-makers may support students and listen to students’ perspectives and experiences in a way that can affect policy change in higher education.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Thursday, May 08, 2025