A Qualitative Study of How First-Generation Chican@/Latin@ Students Experience Access and Engagement in Undergraduate Research
Salvador, Jessica Elizabeth
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Chican@/Latin@ students are underrepresented in higher education and even fewer are accessing and completing graduate degrees. In order to continue on the doctoral pathway, students must have accessed services that will enhance their learning and help them define their goals during the undergraduate experience. Experiential opportunities such as undergraduate research have been identified as high-impact practices that extend undergraduate students’ learning and help them define their goals within their academic field and increase their awareness and knowledge about continuation onto graduate and professional schools. Prior studies have found these opportunities to be especially important for students from under-represented populations in higher education who would not know of future academic possibilities or see themselves in graduate or professional schools. This study explored seven first generation Chican@/Latin@ undergraduate students accessed and engaged in undergraduate research. This qualitative multiple case study draws from higher education, sociology, and information behavior literature. Findings convey that institutional actors enacted empowerment agent roles by reaching out to students to provide long-term guidance, encouragement to pursue research by reinforcing the value of research, encouraging students to identify with the domain of research, and supporting students in cultivating relationships with other institutional actors. Findings also found that information grounds ranged from informal and student-centered spaces, to community cultural spaces, and structured support programs. Further, once students engaged in research, research was a space that served as a “safe space” for students. The research space helped nurture students’ sense of self-efficacy, aspirations, personal agency in learning, and it validated the intersectionality of their multiple identities.
- Education - Seattle