Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Annemarie Vaccaro


Latinx student enrollment in higher education institutions has been increasing and will continue to rise (McFarland et al., 2018), yet Latinx students have lower degree completion rates than their peers from other racial and ethnic backgrounds (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). Higher education institutions need to learn directly from the lived experiences of this diverse population of students to better support their college completion efforts (Arbelo-Marrero & Milacci, 2018; Flink, 2018). The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of Latinx students who persisted to graduation at a four-year Hispanic Serving Institution by examining two research questions: How did the Latinx alumni successfully navigate the collegiate experience? How do the Latinx alumni describe the institutional policies and practices that fostered or served as barriers to their persistence in, and graduation from, college? Latina/o Critical Theory (LatCrit) served as the theoretical framework that guided this study. Testimonios research design and methodology was used in this study to conduct individual interviews with participants and two focus groups. The individual interviews explored each participant’s experiences related to the two research questions. The focus groups served as opportunities for member checking related to the themes that emerged from the individual interviews. The interviews and the focus groups were video and audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. In vivo coding, the pattern coding technique (Saldaña, 2021), and Fraser’s (2004) approach to analyzing personal stories were used to analyze the data and develop themes. The themes that emerged from the data related to question one were personal strengths, family influence, support from friends, and positive interactions with faculty and staff. The themes related to question two were difficulties navigating college, lack of diversity on campus, institutional desorden (chaos), lack of information related to the academic roadmaps and academics in general, discrimination and unjust treatment, and institutional policies and practices that fostered persistence. These themes were used to develop recommendations for the higher education institution that served as the research site and future research.



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