Dissertation

The Persistence and Advancement of Latino Professionals in Student Affairs

The number of Latinos, specifically college-aged youth, is increasing rapidly in the United States. As a result, institutions of higher education are seeing increases in their enrollment of Latino undergraduates, but a gap exists in their retention and graduation rates. Latino Student Affairs professionals have a role in the success of students of color, specifically Latino students. Research shows Latino professionals are underrepresented in Student Affairs. While research on Latino Student Affairs professionals is limited, there is information on comparative populations (Latino faculty and presidents, and Student Affairs professionals of color). This literature demonstrates cultural values unique to Latino professionals, and the supports and barriers they experience in their persistence and advancement. There literature includes the impact of relationships, and social and cultural capital. This cross-comparative case study explored the experiences of Latino Student Affairs professionals and ascertained personal and institutional supports and barriers affecting their persistence and advancement. It also identified the role of relationships in overcoming these barriers. The study included 21 interviews with professionals from two universities in Southern California, as well as document analyses of materials from each university regarding what supports may be available for Latino Student Affairs professionals. Participants identified perceived barriers and supports, and how relationships influence their persistence and advancement. From these interviews, 11 emergent themes were identified. Participants expressed barriers at the personal, interpersonal, and institutional levels. Supports included institutional support, personalismo (formal friendliness), relationships with other Latino professionals, and social capital. Participants identified familismo (the role of family) as both a support and a barrier. Themes were consistent with the available literature on Latino staff. They also aligned with literature on Latino faculty and Student Affairs professionals of color which were used to ascertain potential supports and barriers affecting Latino professionals in Student Affairs. Implications for future research and theory are presented. Implications for practice are identified for institutions and for the field of Student Affairs. While there continues to be a lack of representation of Latino Student Affairs professionals, this study emphasizes the significance of understanding the experiences of these professionals and how to better improve their persistence and advancement.

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