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Overview of Book: Studying Latinx/a/o Students in Higher Education

In 2021, Nichole M. Garcia, Jesus Cisneros and I co-edited the book Studying Latinx/a/o Students in Higher Education: A Critical Analysis of Concepts, Theory, and Methodologies. This edited volume is culturally relevant and sustaining for how we make sense of the knowledges, skills, and abilities Latinx/a/o students bring from their communities into institutions of higher education and community-based settings. In this post, I share a short description of the book, by providing the abstracts of each book chapter.

How We Envision This Work

Studying Latinx/a/o Students in Higher Education: A Critical Analysis of Concepts, Theory, and Methodologies came to fruition during our time together at the 2018 Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) in Tampa, Florida. The 2018 ASHE President, Lori Davis Patton, curated the conference theme, “Envisioning the Woke Academy: Past, Present, and Future.” Patton and program chair DL Stewart challenged scholars, practitioners, and students to “consider how awake we are” to racism, white supremacy, heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, anti-Blackness and other forms of hegemony. As attendees and Latinx/a/o[1] scholars, we are often forced to be awake to these conditions, resist, and rearticulate how to best respond through our research, teaching, service, and activism.

[1] We use Latinx/a/o as an umbrella term to acknowledge the various alterations and understandings of terms to name and identify people of Latin America descent and origin.


Daniel Solorzano

Chapter 1. Introduction.

Nichole M. Garcia, Cristobal Salinas Jr., & Jesus Cisneros

In this chapter we use mascaras, trenzas, y greñas to provide the impetus for how we use and guide this book, as all of the contributors use the personal to understand concepts, theories, and methods related to the educational experiences of Latinx/a/o student populations in higher education. Using the work of Montoya (1994), readers of this edited volume should engage mascaras, trenzas, y greñas as connecting stories throughout every chapter that “refashion personal and collective identity” for Latinx/a/o students in higher education (p. 27). In this edited volume, we approach “education” broadly in that “education” can take place in formal and informal spaces, as our scholarship is not monolithic nor unilateral. This edited volume provides a guide for scholars, practitioners, and students to help advance, understand, and promote the success of Latinx/a/o student populations in higher education.

Chapter 2. Possibilities and Considerations for the Future of Student Development Theory Research

Ebelia Hernández

This chapter reviews and builds on the work of scholars who are rethinking student development scholarship, and considers the implications for the study of Latina/o/x student development. Guided by critical frameworks’ objectives to examine the impact and effects of oppression and structural analysis of systemic oppression to understand the experiences and meaning-making of minoritized populations, I propose two key areas to consider for future research: context, specifically the racialized and political environment; and methodological choices, such as how critical and post-structural theories might be used as epistemologies and/or theoretical frameworks in the theorizing of student development. I conclude this chapter with possibilities and considerations for theory development and research design.

Chapter 3. The College Choice Process as a Latinx/a/o Family Affair

Janette Mariscal

This chapter presents prominent college choice models that have been applied to Latinx/a/o students and their families. The purpose is to provide an overview on how college choice models have framed Latinx/a/o families to facilitate and transform how scholars and practitioners can work with students and their families in K-12 and beyond. Limitations and future directions for research and practice are presented.

Chapter 4. Social Connectedness and Latin* in Higher Education

Raquel Botello & Johanna Torres

The academic journey for Latin* is often fueled by a desire for collectivist empowerment and gaining a sense of success that inadvertently belongs to their families (Rodriguez et al., 2019). Latin* students often hold or seek a stable sense of social connectedness with their families and communities (Phinney et al, 2006). The relationship between social connectedness and higher education is complex due to cultural differences and systemic factors (Castellanos & Gloria, 2007). This chapter addresses the role of social connectedness by exploring current literature on social connectedness and Latin* students. The role of connectedness and belonging and its impact on the experiences, educational gaps, and triumphs of Latin* students in higher education is examined. Gaps in the literature and recommendations for innovative approaches to research with Latin* students and social connectedness are discussed.

Chapter 5. Advancing Asset-Based Practices for Latinx/a/o College Students: The Application of Community Cultural Wealth Theory

Antonio Duran, Evelyn Grace, & Gustavo Molinar

Though the number of Latinx/a/o college students enrolling at higher education institutions continues to grow, scholars and practitioners must think critically about the practices present at colleges and universities that allow these individuals to succeed. This chapter assists professionals in advancing and leveraging an asset-based perspective of Latinx/a/o students in order to bolster their success. Using Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth framework, we offer examples of how institutional agents can foster six forms of capital: aspirational, familial, linguistic, navigational, resistant, and social. We then conclude with recommendations for future research specific to cultural wealth for Latinx/a/o students.

Chapter 6. “Dime con quién andas y te diré quien eres”: Theories and Methodologies that Center Latinx/a/o Epistemologies and Pedagogies

Judith Flores Carmona

Centering Chicana/Latina feminist epistemologies and how I employ pláticas~testimonios methodology in my work with Latinx/a/o students at a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), I acknowledge that the purpose of institutions of higher education was never to open its doors to Students of Color and other historically excluded/marginalized groups. I also answer the following questions: What is my approach to the study of Latinx/a/o students and how does my work contribute to the study of Latinx/a/o students in higher education? What ethical issues do I consider that are unique to the study of Latinx/a/o students in higher education? And, what opportunities for future research does my approach present? I conclude by offering consejos (advise) on how to continue en la lucha to decolonize academia through our teaching, research, and service.

Chapter 7. Consejitos as a Counter-hegemonic Peer Leadership Practice

Nydia C. Sánchez & Estee Hernández

In this chapter, we lean on our Chicana feminist epistemologies to theorize consejitos as one way Mexican American college students enact leadership. An extension of previous scholarship on consejos, we assert that consejitos are co-constructed peer-to-peer situational bits of advice. We apply this construct to a counter-story, where Gates Millennium Scholars at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) return to their high school for the 6th Annual Writing Retreat. We conclude with reflection prompts, encouraging the reader to recognize the extraordinary nature of this seemingly ordinary leadership practice.

Chapter 8. Ganas as a Praxis: Cultural Responsiveness in Latinx/a/o Higher Education Success

Rebeca Mireles-Rios, Victor Rios, Bertin Solis, & Jose Gutierrez

In this chapter, we argue that by grasping a better understanding of the origins of the concept and practice of ganas in Latinx communities, institutions of higher education, particularly Hispanic Serving Institutions, can better serve Latinx students through authentic caring and extended networks of support. We argue that the origins of ganas is rooted in the conceptual framework of pedagogies of the home. Through our pláticas, we contend that by focusing on the cultural validation of the concept and practice of ganas, higher education institutions can achieve success in retaining and promoting Latinx/a/o students. We conceptualize ganas as completely different from a resilience framework and believe that ganas has become anglocized in its translation. In other words, ganas needs to be reclaimed for what it represents to an entire community—the will to persist as a collective and promote each other’s well-being through seeking community and social justice.

Chapter 9. Trenzudas, Truchas, y Traviesas: Mapping Higher Education Through a Chicana Feminist Cartography

Verónica N. Vélez, Daisy Padilla Torres, & Dania López Jaramillo

This chapter employs ground-truthing (Vélez & Solorzano, 2017) along with a Chicana feminist epistemology (CFE) (Delgado Bernal, 1998) to foreground our spatiality as Latinas in higher education—an undergraduate student, a college student support staff professional, and an associate professor at a regional, public 4-year university—as we navigate higher education in the Pacific Northwest. Using groundtruthing and CFE as conceptual and epistemological anchors, and testimonio as method, this chapter introduces the necessity of a Chicana feminist cartography in order to capture our spatiality as: 1) trenzudas – connecting across generations; 2) truchas – strategizing how to navigate institutions not intended for us; and 3) traviesas – breaking the rules as we refuse the university. Collectively, these signal a set of spatial identities forged through struggle and made evident through shared experiences maneuvering the tranzas of higher education. This chapter stresses the importance of a Chicana feminist cartography for deepening a spatial consciousness in educational research that seeks to map how Latinxs/as/os traverse, translate, and transform the “ground” of higher education.

Chapter 10. Rupturing from the Black-white racial binary: AfroLatina/o/x bridging the Black-Brown divide

Claudia García-Louis

In this chapter, I challenge educational researchers to critically consider how historical events, such as slavery and the birth of mestizaje, contribute(d) to research practices that present Latina/o/x as a monolithic group; perpetrating exclusionary practices that positioning AfroLatina/o/x as outsiders. I endeavor to (a) demonstrate the need to conduct interdisciplinary research when attempting to assess Latina/o/x students’ educational experiences; (b) illuminate critical connections between slavery and the ‘safeguarding of schools’ from Black children; and (c) challenge the common use of the Black-white racial binary when interrogating racial relations in the U.S. Finally, I center AfroLatina/o/x students as the physical and metaphorical bridge that connects the discursive/intellectual division of browness and blackess.

Chapter 11. Centering Central American Students in Higher Education Research: A Proposal for Central American Student Self-Report (CASSR)

Blanca E. Vega, & Elizabeth Iris Rivera Rodas

In this chapter, we consider how Central Americans should be included in a larger panethnic Latin* context and higher education. This chapter provides a landscape review of the current literature on retention and persistence of Central Americans in higher education. Using the literature that currently exists on Central Americans in higher education, We argue for a Central American Student Self-Report (CASSR) and discuss the measures that should be used to develop instruments to further understand their persistence in higher education and assess interventions for Central American student success. We ask how the story of Central Americans should be included in a larger panethnic Latin* context and, even more broadly, in the story of the United States. Lastly, using a QuantCrit approach, the authors explore how primary data can be used to inform higher education practices and policies focused on Central American students.

Chapter 12. Undocumented Critical Theory in Education.

Carlos Aguilar

In this chapter, I acknowledge the role that migrant “illegality” has in the lives of undocumented students, but not without questioning the fundamental role that the education system plays in their trajectories. This chapter makes the argument that educational and legal system(s) continue to devaluate and dehumanize the lives of marginalized communities of color. Through the lens of Undocumented Critical Theory, I explore the marginalization of educational trajectories of students by tracing their experiences to the K-12 system, which is essential to understand, advance, and promote the experiences of undocumented students and a larger educationally marginalized people in higher education.

Chapter 13. Testimonio as Critical Race Feminista Methodology in Higher Education

Lindsay Pérez Huber

In this chapter, I describe how I have used Chicana feminist approaches and Latina/o critical theory (LatCrit) to develop the methodology of testimonio to conduct research with undocumented Chicanas/Latinas in higher education. I illustrate how these frameworks can transform normative research practices in higher education and turn attention to interdisciplinary approaches that can cultivate new knowledge and alternative pathways for the study of higher education. I argue the use of testimonio to build and bridge theory, method, and epistemology is a part of a Critical Race Feminista methodology, a move towards more humanizing research approaches with Communities of Color.

Chapter 14. A Futurity of Jotería Studies and Higher Education Research: Epistemological and Theoretical Shifts

Roberto Orozco

In this chapter, I assert the need for higher education scholarship to engage with queer Latinx/a/o knowledge and experiences. I propose the examination of a Latinx/a/o and queer identity as a move toward a futurity of bridging Jotería Studies with the field of higher education. I examine several contemporary works of Jotería Studies and draw parallels between queer Latinx/a/o experiences outside of academia to explicitly describe the hypervisibility and invisibility of queer Latinx/a/o people in higher education. Although there is an increase in scholarship that brings forth the examination of queer Latinx/a/o people in higher education, primarily college students, there exist an opportunity to build a foundation for Jotería Studies in higher education research. Lastly, I offer theoretical and epistemological shifts that elucidate the operation of Jotería Studies in and with higher education research.

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