Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Douglas V. Davidson

Second Advisor

Dr. Lewis Walker

Third Advisor

Dr. Subhash Sonnad

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Gunilla Holm


Institutional racism, encouraged assimilation, and ignorance of Latino/a values are current barriers to the academic success and leadership development of students of Mexican descent in higher education. This study examined the lives and personal stories of 22 college freshmen of Mexican descent from Texas and Michigan and how they transitioned and adapted their first year at Western Michigan University. This study used interviews and participant observation to examine the individuals in each cohort in order to construct their life stories.

An additional purpose was to critically examine the role of the researcher who was highly involved in the recruitment and retention of the majority of these students. Therefore, considerable discussion and examination is offered using a critical/ postmodernist methodological framework in order to evaluate what influence the researcher's role had on these students’ stories.

Findings suggest that there exists considerable intra and inter socio-cultural variability in terms of demographics, generational level, language, cultural awareness, ethnic loyalty, and high school preparation which influence how these students acculturate in a predominantly white environment. Further findings demonstrated Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. that overall the students in the Texas cohort were more socio-culturally challenged than those in the Michigan cohort in adapting to an institution such as Western Michigan University.


Fifth Advisor: Dr. Thomas Ray

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access