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Perspectives of Latinx undergraduates on the cultural engagement of the campus environment at a Catholic university

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Title:
Perspectives of Latinx undergraduates on the cultural engagement of the campus environment at a Catholic university
Creator:
Bonacquisti, Judi A. Diaz
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
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English

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Degree:
Doctorate ( Doctor of education)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
School of Education and Human Development, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Leadership for educational equity
Committee Chair:
Bianco, Margarita
Committee Members:
Hipolito-Delgado, Carlos
Sandoval-Lucero, Elena

Notes

Abstract:
A culturally engaging college campus environment is thought to increase Latinx students’ sense of belonging, yet limited research exists examining the relationship between these variables for Latinx students attending Catholic universities. This study examined the perspectives of 21 Latinx undergraduate students attending a private, Catholic university, on the cultural engagement of the campus environment and its impact on their sense of belonging. This study included the perspectives of traditional aged and adult Latinx undergraduates, some of whom had previous college experience. In addition, this research specifically addressed the cultural engagement of the college environment by using Museus’s CECE framework (2014) in a Catholic university setting. Although traditional and adult students had varying life experiences prior to enrolling at CatholicU, their perceptions of the cultural engagement of the campus environment were consistent in most aspects. Three major themes, bureaucracy, barriers to Latinx cultural engagement, and success strategies for Latinx cultural engagement, produced 16 subthemes in which adults and traditional students differed in only two areas. The researcher determined that students do not find the environment of CatholicU culturally engaging. However, now that the university is aware of this status, CatholicU can capitalize on what is working for students, eliminate barriers for students, and implement strategies, policies and programs to better support positive outcomes of Latinx students.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Copyright Judi A. Diaz Bonacquisti. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
PERSPECTIVES OF LATINX UNDERGRADUATES ON THE CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT
OF THE CAMPUS ENVIRONMENT AT A CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY
by
JUDI A. DIAZ BONACQUISTI
B.S., Colorado State University, 1992
M.B.A., University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 2003
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education Leadership for Educational Equity 2019
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©2019
JUDI A. DIAZ BONACQUISTI ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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This dissertation for the Doctor of Education degree by Judi A. Diaz Bonacquisti has been approved for the Leadership for Educational Equity Program by
Date: May 18, 2019
m
Margarita Bianco, Chair Carlos Hipolito-Delgado, Advisor Elena Sandoval-Lucero


Diaz Bonacquisti, Judi A. (Ed.D., Leadership for Educational Equity)
Perspectives of Latinx Undergraduates on the Cultural Engagement of the Campus Environment at a Catholic University
Dissertation directed by Associate Professor Carlos Hipolito-Delgado
ABSTRACT
A culturally engaging college campus environment is thought to increase Latinx students’ sense of belonging, yet limited research exists examining the relationship between these variables for Latinx students attending Catholic universities. This study examined the perspectives of 21 Latinx undergraduate students attending a private, Catholic university, on the cultural engagement of the campus environment and its impact on their sense of belonging.
This study included the perspectives of traditional aged and adult Latinx undergraduates, some of whom had previous college experience. In addition, this research specifically addressed the cultural engagement of the college environment by using Museus’s CECE framework (2014) in a Catholic university setting. Although traditional and adult students had varying life experiences prior to enrolling at CatholicU, their perceptions of the cultural engagement of the campus environment were consistent in most aspects. Three major themes, bureaucracy, barriers to Latinx cultural engagement, and success strategies for Latinx cultural engagement, produced 16 subthemes in which adults and traditional students differed in only two areas. The researcher determined that students do not find the environment of CatholicU culturally engaging.
However, now that the university is aware of this status, CatholicU can capitalize on what is working for students, eliminate barriers for students, and implement strategies, policies and programs to better support positive outcomes of Latinx students.
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Keywords: Latino, Latina, Latinx, Latin@/x, Latin@, university, college, Catholic, sense of belonging, culturally engaging campus environment, adult, traditional, post-traditional, undergraduate, faculty, administrators, staff.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Carlos Hipolito-Delgado
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DEDICATION
I was blessed to have been born into a family that emphasized the importance of learning and stressed the responsibility to use that knowledge to better our community. I stand on the shoulders of giants: Manuel and Mary Diaz, Frances Romero, Edward Romero, Dave Diaz, and Lorraine Diaz. Each have supported me importantly and differently as I have grown into the woman I am. None of me exists without all of you.
My immediate family drives me to be a better, more compassionate person and I am grateful for their support always and especially on this journey. My husband Paul is the calming voice that eases my stress. He led my personal IT department, proofread papers and took the lion’s share of home responsibilities. He is my rock; the grounded foundation on which I am able to rise. My daughter Marisa focuses on her goals, works hard and achieves them. Whether they are academic, athletic or social, she gets it done—and done well—with laughter and joy. She reminds me that I can too. My son Vincent, the writer in our family with the big heart and wide smile, was the motivation to sit at the keyboard even when I was out of words. With my dual monitors set up in his hospital room as he valiantly battled AML Leukemia, he inspired me to finish this work. He never gave up. Neither did I.
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ACKNOWLEDEMENTS
My committee challenged my work and made it stronger. Learning I needed a “massive rewrite” on the first draft of my proposal was deflating but Dr. Carlos Hipolito-Delgado believed I could do better and guided me to do so. With her suggestion to include Latinx faculty and administrators into my lit review, Dr. Margarita Bianco helped me to listen deeply to students’ stories and feel the importance of Fr. Mateo. All Latinx undergrad students deserve a Fr. Mateo. For more than twelve years, Dr. Elena Sandoval-Lucero has encouraged me to pursue a doctorate. As an equity-minded college administrator, she is a role model for both students and staff. I am grateful to know and work with each of you and believe we will create stronger systems and better outcomes for future students.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION...........................................................1
a. Research Questions.................................................3
b. Definition of Terms................................................3
II. LITURATURE REVIEW......................................................4
a. Latinx in Higher Education.........................................4
b. Latinx in Catholic Universities....................................5
c. Latinx Faculty and Staff...........................................8
d. Sense of Belonging.................................................9
i. Theoretical Foundations.....................................10
ii. Sense of Belonging and Latinx Students.....................12
e. Culturally Engaging Campus Environments...........................15
i. Theoretical Perspectives....................................15
ii. Latinx and Culturally Engaging Campus Environments.........16
III. METHODS...............................................................19
a. Purpose of Study..................................................19
b. Case Study........................................................19
c. Theoretical Framework.............................................20
d. Participants......................................................21
e. Setting...........................................................23
f. Research Questions................................................24
g. Instruments.......................................................24
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h. Research Procedures................................................25
i. Data Analysis......................................................27
j. Trustworthiness....................................................30
IV. RESULTS................................................................32
a. How Culturally Engaging do Latinx Undergraduate Students
Find CatholicU Environment? .......................................32
i. Bureaucracy .................................................33
b. What are Elements of CatholicU’s Environment that Support or
Hinder the Engagement of Latinx Undergraduate Students? ...........37
i. Barriers to Success.........................................37
1. Contemplatives’ Inaction..............................38
2. Lack of C ommunity....................................41
3. Lack of Cultural Competency. Lack of Cura Personalis..48
ii. Success Strategies..........................................55
1. Faculty...............................................55
2. Cultural Community....................................60
c. Do Traditional Undergraduates and Post-Traditional Undergraduates
Perceive the Campus Environment Similarly? ........................64
V. DISCUSSION.............................................................67
a. Implications.......................................................71
i. Minimize Bureaucratic Barriers and Meet Student Needs.......71
ii. Remove Existing Obstacles and Expand Opportunities
that Support a Culturally Engaging Campus Environment........73
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b. Limitations
78
c. Future Research...............................................78
d. Conclusion....................................................79
REFERENCES....................................................................80
APPENDIX
A. Email to Participate................................................84
B. Focus Group Questions...............................................85
C. Consent Form........................................................86
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CHAPTERI
INTRODUCTION
Perspectives of Latinx Undergraduates on the Cultural Engagement of the Campus
Environment at a Catholic University
The population of Latinxs in the United States has grown to become the largest ethnic or racial minority in the nation. Of the more than 57 million Latinxs in the US, only five million, over the age of 25, hold at least a bachelor’s degree (US Census, 2017). Unfortunately,
Latinxs remain the most under educated ethnic group in the United States, with Latinx students completing their baccalaureate degree at a rate that is less than one third of their White counterparts (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). One potential reason for this gap in completion, may be that Latinxs experience less culturally engaging environments and, as a consequence, less sense of belonging at their institutions (Hurtado & Ponjuan, 2005; Hausman, Schofield & Woods, 2007). Alas, little is known about Latinxs sense of cultural engagement and sense of belonging at Catholic universities. The findings of this study provide unique insights on Latinx students’ perceptions of the cultural engagement at a Catholic institution and adds to this knowledge base.
Though the numbers of Catholic universities declined between 1965 and 2014, the enrollment of students in these universities has nearly doubled (Contreras, 2016). Catholic universities are poised to play an important role in facilitating Latinx college completion. Given that 34% of Catholics in the United States are Latinx, (Contreras, 2016) Latinxs could become increasingly important to the long-term sustainability of Catholic universities. If Catholic universities seek to attract and promote the success of Latinx students, it is crucial for Catholic
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universities to develop more culturally engaging campus environments for Latinx students and foster their sense of belonging on campus.
The climate of the campuses may impact how welcome students feel; a hospitable environment may support student success and conversely, a hostile environment may deter students from successfully persisting and graduating, (Hurtado, 1997). Students who have a sense of belonging on the college campus are more likely to remain than those students who have no connection to the institution (Hurtado & Ponjuan, 2005; Hausman, Schofield & Woods,
2007). Many consider the student integration theories developed by Tinto (1975) as foundational, and others have criticized it for its lack of representation regarding the experiences of students of color and other traditionally underrepresented student populations (Tierney,
1992; Nunez, 2009; Hurtado & Carter, 1997). This gap in the research has opened the possibility for the creation of new model that appreciates and validates the experiences of underrepresented students on college campuses to determine how the climate of the campus impacts their sense of belonging and their intention to stay. Dr. Samuel Museus developed the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Scale to measure nine elements of college environments that foster success among diverse populations (Museus, Zhang & Kim, 2014). Else of the CECE may help universities understand the cultural engagement of the campus environment, and in turn develop strategies to help Latinx students develop a sense of belonging.
The purpose of this study was to understand to what degree Latinx undergraduate students at a private, doctoral-granting Catholic university regard their campus as being culturally engaging. This dissertation research project used a case study methodology and a series of focus groups to gain students’ perspectives on which elements of their campus they found most engaging as well as those that may be barriers or deterrents. By understanding how
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the campus environment supports or dissuades the sense of belonging of Latinx students, the university (dubbed CatholicU) can implement strategies, policies and programs to better support the sense of belonging of Latinx students.
Research Questions
1. How culturally engaging do Latinx undergraduate students find CatholicU environment?
2. What are elements of CatholicU’s environment that support or hinder the engagement of Latinx undergraduate students?
3. Do traditional undergraduates and post-traditional undergraduates perceive the campus environment similarly?
Definition of Terms
Latinx: The author is using the emerging gender-neutral term Latinx and this term is intended to be inclusive of all students of Latino origin. The author will use Latinx throughout this paper, unless a direct quote is used, and in that case, the paper will reflect original term used by the author or participant.
Sense of Belonging: the degree to which a student feels a sense of connection to their educational institution, and “contains both cognitive and affective elements,” (Hurtado and Carter, 1997, p. 328).
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CHAPTER II
LITERATURE REVIEW Latinxs in Higher Education
The Latinx population in the United States is experiencing unprecedented population growth, at the same time it is earning the distinction as the most undereducated population in the United States (Gandara, & Contreras, 2009). This leaky educational pipeline stretches from K-12 through higher education and has created an educational parity issue when compared to their White counterparts. In 2014-2015 the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) of US public high school students was 83%, with an 88% ACGR for White students but only 78% for Latinxs, (National Center Education Statistics (NCES), 2017). The high school graduation gap in Colorado was more pronounced, with an 83% ACGR for White high school graduates, but only 68% ACGR for Latinxs, (NCES, 2017). For those who do graduate high school, many choose to begin their undergraduate education at community colleges, and more than half of all Latinx students enrolled in higher education across the nation enroll at community colleges (de los Santos & de los Santos, 2006). In the fall of 2011, 99,974 Latinxs enrolled at a public two-year college, but only 12.7% of Latinxs had earned a bachelors degree six years later, including those students who earned a two-year degree and those who transferred prior to earning a credential (Shapiro, Dundar, Huie, Wakhungu, Yuan, Nathan, & Bhimdiwali, 2017). Though community colleges have contributed to more students entering college, the completion rates remain low (Shapiro, et al, 2017).
More Latinxs are accessing higher education than they were 35 years ago, but the growth in college attendance has not kept pace with their population growth. This dynamic has widened the college enrollment gap between Latinxs and White students (Askenas, Park, &
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Pearce, 2017). Additionally, Latinxs complete bachelor’s degrees at a rate that is less than a third the rate of White students (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). The six year graduation rate for Latinxs who entered four-year colleges in the fall of 2008 was 54% compared to 63% for White students (NCES, 2017). Within Colorado 32% White students had earned at least one postsecondary credential after four years compared to 20.9% of Latinx students (Garcia, 2016)—as a result, Colorado has the second largest achievement gap in the country. According to Colorado Competes, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education’s Master Plan, “Colorado’s system performs far better for white students than it does for Hispanics” (2012, p. 5). Nationally, the type of institution at which Latinx students enrolled produced another notable gap. Fifty-two percent of Latinxs graduated from public four-year institutions, compared to 61% at private, nonprofit, four-year colleges (NCES, 2017).
While the Latinx population and college enrollment has grown in the United States, Latinx degree completion has stagnated, and degree completion rates lag behind those of their White contemporaries (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). The institution type, whether two-year, four-year, public, or private has a role to play in Latinx student completion. Although it is generally known that a positive perception of a culturally engaging campus impacts Latinxs’ sense of belonging and increases their success (Hurtado, Alvarez, Guillermo-Wann, Cuellar, Arellano, 2012; Museus, 2014), little is known about the relationship of culturally engaging campuses and sense of belonging in Catholic universities specifically.
Latinx Enrollment at Catholic Universities
Private and Catholic Universities are not required to make institutional data as readily available as public universities; therefore, it can be challenging to find exact indicators. While the number of Catholic universities in the United States dropped from 305 to 225 between 1965
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and 2014, the enrollment of students nearly doubled (Contreras, 2016). What is unclear, however, is the change in enrollment of Latinx students at Catholic universities during this period. The K-12 Catholic sector also experienced changes during these years, with elementary level enrollment declining by nearly half, and secondary school enrollment remaining relatively flat. The outcomes at the secondary level prove important; in 2010-2011, Catholic schools graduated 147,577 students (of any race), with 85.7% of them enrolling directly into a four-year college the following fall (Contreras, 2016).
Contreras (2016) leveraged available secondary data from the 2007 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to compile a picture of the enrollment and completion status of Latinxs attending nineteen research/doctoral granting Catholic universities. Of these nineteen universities, twelve had a student population that was less than 10% Latinx, five universities had student populations that were between 10% and 15% Latinx, and only two universities a student body that was greater than 15% Latinx. Specifically, Barry University had a student body that was 30% Latinx, and Saint Thomas University's enrollment was 55.8% Latinx, which qualifies each for federal designation as an Hispanic Serving Institution. Graduation rates of Latinx students at these nineteen universities varied widely. Four universities graduated less than 40% of Latinx students in six years, and ten universities graduated between 50% and 69% of Latinxs within a six-year time frame. This compares to a national six year completion rate of 54% (NCES, 2017). Only four of the nineteen Catholic universities demonstrated six-year completion rates above 70% for Latinx students: Saint Mary’s of Minnesota 80%, Boston College 84.3%, University of Notre Dame 91.2%, and Georgetown University 91.5%. While the graduation rate at each of these colleges is impressive, none had a
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student body that was greater than 10% Latinx, contributing a small number of Latinx graduates (Contreras, 2016).
Numerical data is not the only piece of the Latinx experience that is hidden within Catholic Universities; so are the perceptions of their experiences. Latinx and White students at Notre Dame were interviewed by Raphael, Pressley and Kane (2003) on their views of the campus environment, and its impact on the students. Latinx students, in general, had a positive experience at the campus, but did experience challenges not identified by their White counterparts, including experiencing challenges with separation from family and negative stereotyping by other students. While their study did not explicitly identify the impact of the cultural engagement of the campus environment on students’ sense of belonging to Notre Dame, one can find aspects of each embedded within the student responses. The family-like environment, interactions with peers from the same and different cultural backgrounds, and interactions with faculty and staff were important in Latinx students’ connection to the university. However, feelings of discrimination were stronger for Latinx students than White students and had negative impacts on some Latinx students’ desire to remain at the university. One important aspect that was evident for Latinx students was the impact of Catholicism and their decision to choose and remain at Notre Dame. The religious aspect supported them spiritually and was also social; masses held in Spanish and retreats that focused on Latinx students helped them to develop a sense of family on the campus and encouraged them to stay, in ways that were not as evident for White students (Raphael, et al, 2003).
Contreras (2016) data focused on Latinx students who transitioned to a Catholic university directly from high school, as did the interviews conducted by Raphael, et al (2003). The enrollment and success rates of adult Latinx undergraduate learners, whether as first-time
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students or as transfers from a community college, is unclear. The recommendations of the Contreras (2016) study note the need to establish a national data center on Catholic colleges and universities as well as encouraging individual institutions to collect college enrollment and completion data by race and ethnicity. In addition, she asserts the need for qualitative research to better understand why Latinx students lag White students in college completion. This type of analysis would provide a clearer picture of the experiences of Latinx students on Catholic campuses, potentially leading to policy recommendations that would better support degree completion across ethnic groups. In an effort to support their collegiate success, this project investigated the perceptions of Latinx undergraduates of the cultural engagement of the campus environment at CatholicU, and its impact on their sense of belonging.
Latinx Faculty and Staff
Latinx professionals, whether as faculty or as administrators, impact undergraduate students and the university environment in important ways. For example, faculty of color engage students differently than their white faculty counterparts. According to Umbach (2006), Latinx faculty utilize diversity in their classroom instruction through class discussions or written assignments that include diverse perspectives, and students are more likely to have serious conversations within their courses with students of a different race or ethnicity. Faculty of color utilize active and collaborative learning techniques with greater frequency than White faculty, and faculty at private colleges use these same techniques more often than faculty at public institutions. Furthermore, the greater the diversity of faculty on campus, the higher the levels of faculty involvement, suggesting that greater structural diversity leads to an increased use of effective educational practices (Umbach, 2006). In addition to the impact Latinx professionals exhibit in the classroom, the role of Latinx administrators is also valuable.
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According to Sedlacek and Fuertes (1993) Latinx administrators serve as mentors to Latinx faculty and encourage them to enter administration. These administrative roles are critical in policy development, budget allocation and hiring decisions, which can have lasting and systemic implications for college campuses and students. However, when Santos and Acevedo-Gil (2013) reviewed the enrollments of Latinx students and compared against the representation of Latinx faculty and administration in California, they found that the California State University system had lost ground in the numbers of faculty and administrators. This setback had serious implications for the swiftly growing Latinx student enrollment in the CSU system, including gaps in “mentorship, role models, career advising, recruitment, and the like” (p. 196).
Even with the known positive impacts that Latinx faculty and staff can bring to a campus community, their numbers are quite small. During the fall of 2015, only 3% of all faculty across the United States (including tenure track and instructors/lecturers) self-identified as Hispanic males, and 2% as Hispanic females, compared to 41% White males and 35% White females (NCES, 2017). Data on administrators is not available from NCES. As the demographics of Latinx undergraduates continue to trend upward, colleges and universities may be well suited to ensure the composition of their faculty and staff are poised to effectively and comprehensively serve the needs of their students.
Sense of Belonging
Sense of belonging is a basic human need; Maslow (1943) included social belonging on the third level of his hierarchy of needs—behind only physiological needs such as air, food and water, and safety needs such as personal security and financial well-being. Those who do not develop a sense of belonging risk loneliness or ostracism. In the context of higher education,
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sense of belonging entails the degree to which a student feels a sense of connection to their educational institution, and “contains both cognitive and affective elements,” (Hurtado and Carter, 1997, p. 328). Tinto (1970, 1993) theorized students who fully assimilated into the collegiate environment were more committed and more likely to graduate. Later, Tierney (1992) and Hurtado (1992), challenged these views, believing the environment of college—whether it was welcoming or hostile, for example—had a strong impact on a student’s ability to develop a sense of belonging and remain committed to graduating from that institution.
Theoretical Foundations
Vincent Tinto is acknowledged for his foundational work that reviewed the behavioral characteristics of students who leave college and the attributes of students who persist. Tinto (1975) theorized that the lack of student integration into the college environment was due to their low commitment to college, which ultimately led to a student dropping out. Tinto’s (1975) work focused on the behaviors and actions of college students, such as the frequency of their interactions with faculty members and level of engagement on campus and theorized that increased campus engagement would contribute to the success of undergraduate students. He believed that fully integrating into the academic environment was critical to student success noting that students “have to physically as well as socially dissociate themselves from the communities of the past,” (p. 95, Tinto, 1993). Without a full integration into the college community, students were more likely to leave the institution. This implied the need for students to assimilate to the collegiate environment, rather than the institution being responsible for providing a culturally relevant environment to support student sense of belonging. Tinto’s theories are foundational in higher educational literature, as many scholars have built their view
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of modern campus life on his theories of acclimation to college. However, his claims are not without criticism.
Tierney (1992) challenged the assumptions of integration for students from nonmainstream (non-White) backgrounds and asserted that overlooking the precollegiate background of students of color held significant negative consequences for racial and ethnic minorities. Unlike White students, underrepresented students are expected to transition away from their cultural upbringing in addition to learning the campus expectations of the collegiate environment (Tierney, 1992). Tierney conducted case studies at ten Predominantly White Institutions (PWI) and interviewed more than 200 campus administrators. Two significant themes emerged from his interviews, one regarding acculturation of the students, and the other regarding who would resolve the acculturation issue, and how this problem would be effectively addressed. Though his examples focus on the transition of Native American students to PWI, the outcomes are transferable to students from other racial and ethnic groups, especially those with strong cultural and familial ties—like Latinx students. Tierney (1992) found that campus leadership identified that the college transition challenges of Native Americans were due to the students maintaining roots and connections with their home culture. Rather than viewing their home culture as an asset and something on which the college could build to help students transition to this new environment, administrators blamed the retention of the home culture as the reason for Native American students' inability to fully succeed on the collegiate landscape. This mainstream view problematized the students, and not the institution. Other deficit views were also evident. Administrators perceived the lack of competition within Native culture as a concern for acculturation to the campus environment, rather than acknowledge the competitive environment of university as an atmosphere devoid of cooperation and support. By recognizing
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that students from other non-dominant cultures would experience similar cultural and academic acculturation issues as they transition to the university environment, colleges would be well suited to have designated efforts to support the transition of students of color (Tierney, 1992).
Sense of Belonging and Latinx Students
Hurtado and Carter (1997) investigated the differences between students’ feelings of their college campus and their behaviors on the campus. Their study relied on the Sense of Belonging Scales as developed by Bollen and Hoyle (1990) and adapted the scales to study Latinx sense of social cohesion in a collegiate environment. They reference the work of Spady (1970) and contrasted his theories against Tinto. Whereas Tinto’s work and others who followed could show correlations in persistence based on the amount and quality of engagement of students in an academic and social environment, Spady focused on the psychological perceptions of a sense of integration of students as they transitioned to their environments. Hurtado and Carter asserted that this sense of integration can be perceived differently between those who have been historically disenfranchised in higher education than those for whom the system was created.
This indicates that students of color may actively participate in college normative activities, but may do so without a feeling of membership, or belonging, in that participation. The college environment may have more to do with the success of Latinx students’ transition to college than their background characteristics. Latinxs who attended colleges with higher selectivity experienced more difficulty in their transition. Latinx students who transitioned easily their first year found the campus to be less hostile their second year. The perceptions of a hostile campus had a “direct effect on sense of belonging in the third year of college, indicating that Latinx students are less likely to feel part of the campus community if they perceive racial tension or have experienced discrimination in their second year,” (p. 337, Hurtado & Carter 1997).
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Hurtado and Panjuan (2005) researched the impacts of sense of belonging and social cohesion of Latinxs at ten public, residential universities. With the exception of speaking Spanish at home, the background characteristics of Latinxs did not play a role in their sense of belonging, demonstrating that the campus environment and how Latinxs feel about that environment more directly impacted students. Informal activities such as interacting with diverse peers, and formal, university-designed programs such as academic support programs, influenced students to score higher on the sense of belonging index. Conversely, Latinxs who felt the campus environment did not support diversity reported a significantly lower sense of belonging. Enrolling into a diversity course had an indirect effect on students by providing knowledge and the opportunity to engage in positive interactions with diverse peers.
Nunez (2009) leveraged quantitative data from the Diverse Democracy Project Study to research Latinx student perceptions of campus climate, diversity-related experiences, and racial/ethnic stereotyping on their sense of belonging in college. This longitudinal study surveyed first-year students enrolled during the fall of 2001 at nine public, four-year universities, and followed them through their second year with the stated purpose of understanding the characteristics and experiences related to campus climate that are associated with second-year Latinx college students’ sense of belonging. This study hypothesized that students who perceived the campus as hostile to diversity would have diminished sense of belonging. Positive cross-racial interactions, faculty interest in a student’s development, a sense of obligation to give back to the community, and the anticipated ease of knowing one’s way around campus directly affected a positive sense of belonging. While participation in community service activities, frequency of class participation and taking a diversity curriculum indirectly supported a sense of belonging. Perceptions of a hostile climate, status as a second-generation immigrant, and
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working a job in addition to going to college negatively influenced sense of belonging. Her work also identified a paradox in the variables. Taking a diversity curriculum, engaging in community service, and frequency of class participation all contribute to sense of belonging, but also predicted the perception of a hostile campus environment. It would appear that Latinx students who feel more engaged with the campus also perceive that climate to be exclusionary.
It may be that by actively participating in academic discussions and developing social relationships on and off the campus, Latinx students increase their social consciousness and become critical of the environment.
Confirming the work of Hurtado and Carter (1997), Strayhorn (2013) stressed that sense of belonging is different than satisfaction or involvement. His theories focused on Latinx students’ perceptions of connectedness and attachment at the university, rather than integration on the campus. Through quantitative analysis of survey responses to the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ), he determined that Latinx students at PWIs had a lower sense of belonging than their White peers, and that academic and social struggles may hinder a student’s ability to develop a strong sense of belonging on the campus.
The findings of these researchers identify the challenges with traditional interpretations of social integration which value connections to the university over home and other support communities that are important to Latinx students. Additionally, these interpretations do not address the social isolation and racism students of color perceive or experience as they transition to the collegiate environment. By focusing on the students, rather than the institutions, administrators have missed critical indicators in ways their sphere of influence could provide a better environment for the students they are enrolling. Further, the existing literature has yet to examine the experiences of Latinx students at Catholic universities. The findings of this study
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provide unique insight into the ways in which CatholicU can influence the cultural environment of its campus and promote Latinx student sense of belonging.
Culturally Engaging Campus Environments
The limitations in the theoretical frameworks and assessment tools of the past have increased the need for new theoretical perspectives on the racial and cultural realties faced by students of color on college campuses. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Hurtado et. al (2012) and Museus (2014) developed new theoretical frameworks explaining culturally engaging campus environments.
Theoretical Perspectives
With a focus on the impacts of both the curricular and co-curricular environment on the education of the whole student, the Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) model investigates the five dimensions of campus climate: historical, compositional, organizational, psychological and behavioral (Hurtado, et al, 2012). These internal and external influences shape the dynamics of the institution and affect the relationships and interactions of faculty, students, and staff. Each of these forces are interrelated and theorized to affect individual student success outcomes, including persistence and degree attainment. When these outcomes are supportive of students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education, these DLEs can create conditions to support social transformation for a just society, (Hurtado, et al, 2012)
Addressing the criticisms of Tinto’s theories, the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) model of success theorizes that external influences, such as family and finances, combined with precollege characteristics of students (race, age, etc.), and the environment of the campus all influence student experiences and outcomes in college (Museus,
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2014). The collegiate environment shapes positive individual factors of students, such as their sense of belonging and academic disposition and performance, which ultimately impacts the success of racial and ethnically diverse students in college. The focus of the model is to determine the degree to which a culturally engaging campus environment exists at a college or university and is positively associated with supporting individual student factors that lead to their success, specifically an increased likelihood of college persistence and degree completion. The CECE model hypothesizes that nine factors of culturally engaging campus environments exist: cultural familiarity, culturally relevant knowledge, cultural community service, opportunities for meaningful cross-cultural engagement, collectivist cultural orientations, culturally validating environments, humanized educational environments, proactive philosophies, and availability of holistic support. These factors engage students’ racially diverse cultural backgrounds or identities, reflect their diverse needs as they navigate their respective institutions, and facilitate their success in college. The individual influences are sense of belonging, academic dispositions, and academic performance, (Museus & Yi, 2017). It is important to note that the CECE model was developed intentionally to explain environmental factors and impacts across racial populations, including both White students and students of color, (Museus, Zhang, & Kim,
2016).
Latinxs and Culturally Engaging Campus Environments
Hurtado (1992) reviewed forces both inside and outside the campus environment and their impact on Latinx students, noting particularly that students’ perceptions of racial tensions influenced the college experience. Hurtado’s study reviewed the perceptions of racial tension on university campuses of Black, White, and Chicano students, with most undergraduates feeling that racial discrimination was a problem in this country. Across all categories of institutions,
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students perceived lower racial tensions at colleges that exhibited high student-centered priorities and those with an institutional commitment to diversity. However, student perceptions of campus race relations varied by institution type, with higher perceptions of racial tension at selective institutions and better overall race relations at private universities than public universities. Catholic universities fared particularly well with only 12% of students reporting racial conflict, 16% noting mistrust between minority groups and administrators, and 82% reporting good communication among ethnic groups. This study set the stage to investigate the ways students perceive the general campus environment, and its ability to enhance or harm the experiences for diverse students.
In her follow up study Hurtado (1994) noted that nearly one third of Hispanic students felt as if they did not fit in on their campus, even though they had strong academic test scores and high school grades. Sixty eight percent of Latinx college students reported that they felt that other students knew very little about their culture, which was associated with perceptions of racial tension and discrimination. Thus, how students feel about their campus environment is impacting how accepted the students feel by that campus.
Museus, Nichols, & Lambert, (2008) developed models to test the impact of campus climate on students’ decision to depart or persist. While the responses were different across different racial and ethnic categories, including Asian, White, Black and Latinx, the campus racial climate exhibited indirect effects on student retention and completion through academic involvement, social involvement and intuitional commitment. Black students were the least satisfied with their campus racial environments, but Asian and Latinx students were only slightly more content. For Latinx students, social involvement had a positive indirect influence on their perceptions of the racial climate, supporting their completion. It is interesting to note, however,
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that the higher the level of satisfaction that Latinxs had with the racial climate of the campus, the lower their level of social involvement, yet this did not deter their degree outcomes, (Museus et al, 2008).
Campus environments and the perceptions of those environments have direct and indirect effects on the levels of connectedness students have with the institution. If Latinx students perceive the campus as indifferent, racist or otherwise hostile to their culture, students experienced a diminished sense of belonging, and did not feel that they fit at the college. However, when colleges were student-focused and demonstrated a commitment to diversity, Latinx students felt accepted and connected (Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005; Nunez, 2009). While the literature is promising, information on sense of belonging of Latinx students at Catholic universities, and the cultural engagement of the Catholic environment, is lacking.
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CHAPTER III
METHODS Purpose of The Study
The purpose of this study was to understand to what degree Latinx undergraduate students at a private, doctoral-granting Catholic university regarded their campus as being culturally engaging. This dissertation research project used a case study methodology and a series of focus groups to gain students’ perspectives on which elements of their campus they find most engaging as well as those that are barriers or deterrents. By understanding how the campus environment supports or dissuades the sense of belonging of Latinx students, the university (dubbed Catholic U) can implement strategies, policies and programs to better support the sense of belonging of Latinx students.
Case Study
Case study represents one of the five major qualitative research traditions described by Creswell and Poth (2016). Case studies are bound by time and activity, contain detailed information from a variety of data sources over a specified period of time (Creswell & Creswell, 2017), and investigate a contemporary phenomenon in a real-world context (Yin, 2003). Different from the study of historical events, case studies often employ evidence not available to historians: direct observations and interviews of the people involved with the events (Yin, 2017). Additionally, case study methodology can be used to explore a unique case that requires more detailed investigation (Yin, 2009). This research study was well served by case study methodology, as the results were confined to the responses and perceptions of Latinx undergraduates who had completed at least one semester of college and were currently enrolled
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at CatholicU. As has been previously noted, there is limited understanding of how Latinx students experience the cultural environment of Catholic universities.
Theoretical Framework
Early higher education researchers theorized that students who assimilated into their environment of their college were more committed and more likely to graduate (Tinto, 1970; 1993). Other researchers have since challenged this view, believing that the environment of the campus itself, whether welcoming or hostile, for example, had a strong impact on a student’s ability to develop a sense of belonging and remain committed to graduating from that institution (Tierney, 1992; Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Museus, 2014). This case study was guided by the nine themes of the CECE hypothesized by Museus, Zhang and Kim (2016) to increase Latinx students’ sense of belonging on a college campus and describe institutional environments thought to support student success. The creators of the CECE believed that there was a need for scales that “capture the extent to which campus environments engage the backgrounds, communities, and identities of diverse populations, and our research suggest that the CECE scale might fill this existing gap in higher education research and discourse,” (Museus, Zhang & Kim, p. 788).
The nine components of culturally engaging campus environments can be separated into two categories: cultural relevance and cultural responsiveness (Museus, Yi & Saelua, 2017). Cultural relevance is described as the extent that the campus environment is relevant to students’ cultural backgrounds and identities, and contains five components. Cultural familiarity relates to the extent that students connect with peers and others who understand their backgrounds and experiences. Culturally relevant knowledge refers to students’ ability to learn and exchange knowledge about their own background. Cultural community service describes the opportunities
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for students to engage in activities that spread awareness or help solve problems related to their cultural communities. Meaningful cross-cultural engagement is the availability to participate in discussions on important social and political problems with diverse peers. Finally, culturally validating environments describes student perceptions of the extent the campus values their cultural background, knowledge and identities.
Cultural responsiveness describes the effectiveness of the campus to respond to the needs of culturally diverse populations and encompasses four indicators. Collectivist cultural orientation focusses on teamwork rather than individualism and competition. Humanized educational environments describes the extent that the colleges care about and establish meaningful relationships with students. Proactive philosophies are those that provide support to students that is more significant than relaying information. Finally, holistic support is the availability of at least one trusted faculty or staff member that a student can engage for assistance, regardless of what the issue may be.
This researcher modified questions from the 39-question, Likert-based CECE survey tool, and conducted focus groups of Latinx undergraduates of CatholicU. The CECE theoretical framework guided the analysis of results yielded from participants.
Participants
CatholicU enrolls nearly 5200 undergraduates including more than 900 Latinx students (18% of the student body). Approximately 58% of undergraduates identify as women and 42% identify as men, with an average age of 35 for women and 31 for men. The sample consisted of self-identified Latinx undergraduates who were at least 18 years old, had completed at least one class at CatholicU and were eligible to enroll as undergraduates, meaning they had
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not graduated and did not have holds that prevented registration such as disciplinary, academic suspension or collections. These students identified as “Hispanic” on the CatholicU application for admissions and their information was retrieved from Colleague, the campus Student Information System (SIS). The author emailed eligible students to solicit participation, and asked student advocates from across the campus to encourage participation. While she had received initial support from the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion to find students, neither position successful secured students to participate in focus groups.
Traditional undergraduates at CatholicU take 16-week courses and often live on campus. Students in post-traditional programs take 8-week accelerated courses and generally do not live on campus. Post-traditional students are often transfers or adults, while the traditional students arrive at CatholicU directly from high school. An average of 119 traditional Latinx freshmen have entered CatholicU each of the last four years, which is less than half the White student average of 259. The first-year retention rate of traditional Latinx students is 79.61% compared to 81.35% for White students. Data on post-traditional students is not collected at CatholicU. Because there are differences in the academic offerings and social integration opportunities associated with these courses of study, students who are enrolled in both traditional undergraduate and post-traditional undergraduate programs were purposely targeted for participation.
The author emailed students directly, used social media to encourage student participation and solicited support from various champions on campus. She emailed 605 students in post-traditional undergraduate programs in all colleges who were listed in the SIS as Hispanic, were at least 18 years old, had completed at least one class, who had not graduated and
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did not have disciplinary, academic suspension or collection holds that would prevent registration. In addition, the researcher emailed 469 traditional undergraduates in all colleges who were listed as Hispanic, were at least 18 years old, had not graduated and did not have disciplinary, academic suspension or collections holds on their accounts. In addition to sending targeted emails, the author posted about her study on her Facebook page and asked her followers to connect her to potential participants at the university. She also asked academic advisors and student leaders to promote participation. In total, nine focus groups with 21 students were conducted between June and September 2018; 15 traditional students attended five focus groups, and six adults attended four focus groups. Participants ranged from 18 to 49 years of age. Eighteen women participated and three men provided feedback.
Table I
Focus Group Participants
Female
Male
Total
Traditional-Aged Latinx Undergraduates
Adult Latinx Undergraduates
13
2_
15
5
6
Setting
CatholicU is located in a major southwestern city of the United States with a metropolitan area population of more than three million people. Latinx men and women are more than 50% of the Catholic population of local diocese. Offering undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees, the university enrolls approximately 10,000 students and draws students from both the city and out of state. Most traditional-aged students live on campus in residence halls for their first two years and take face to face courses, while most post-traditional students commute to campus in
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the evenings or take online or hybrid coursework. With a focus on serving society, the mission of CatholicU is Men and Women in the Service of Others.
CatholicU employs a total of 1,782 faculty of all ranks, including 54 Latinx women (3%) and 50 Latinx men (2.8%), compared to 789 White women (44%) and 418 White men (23.4). Of 698 staff and administrative positions on the campus, 76 are Latinx women (10.8%), 36 are Latinx men (5%), 352 are White women (50.4%) and 175 are White men (25%). Of 28 senior leadership positions at the university, including the ranks of Vice President, Associate Vice President, and Dean, 3 leaders are Latinx, 1 is African American and 24 are White (85.6%).
Research Questions
1. How culturally engaging do Latinx undergraduate students find the CatholicU environment?
2. What are the elements to CatholicU’s environment that support or hinder the engagement of Latinx undergraduate students?
3. Do traditional undergraduates and post-traditional undergraduates perceive the campus environment similarly?
Instruments
Demographic Questionnaire
Though the focus groups were confidential, participants were not anonymous. Students in each focus group saw the other participants and heard their responses. The author secured demographic information from the SIS including gender, major, year in school and birth year. However, not all information was available in the SIS including if and when students worked. Focus Group Protocol
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The focus group protocol consisted of an introduction, open-ended questions that were modified from the Culturally Engaging Campus Environment (CECE) survey (Museus, Zhang & Kim; 2016), and three additional questions. The researcher began each session describing the purpose of the focus group and identified herself as a “mandatory reporter” and described her responsibilities to engage proper authorities should any student disclose information related to Title IX infractions. To supplement the university-known data, two questions were asked immediately following the introduction by the researcher: Do you work, and if so where and how many hours per week do you work? What was the racial make of your previous institution (high school or community college), and how did that impact your transition to CatholicU? These introductory questions were then followed by nine questions that were modified from the CECE survey (Museus, Zhang & Kim; 2016). These nine open-ended questions allowed students to describe their perceptions of the campus environment in depth and how it has supported or hindered their feelings of belonging to CatholicU. Sample questions include: How does CatholicU demonstrate that Latinx students' culture is valued on campus, and does CatholicU provide enough opportunities to discuss important social issues with people of different cultural backgrounds? The last question of each focus group was What can CatholicU do to improve the campus environment for Latinx students? A full version of the protocol can be found in Appendix B.
Research Procedures
With the assistance of technical personnel, the author emailed Latinx undergraduates who had completed at least one class, had no registration holds, and did not owe the university money to both describe the study and to solicit participation in focus groups (see Appendix A). The email addressed each student by first name, appeared to come directly from the researcher, and
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offered three dates and times for focus groups, which were appropriately targeted to either traditional or nontraditional students. Each student was asked to indicate their interest to participate by replying to the email with their name, major, and preferred date of focus group. Traditional and post-traditional undergraduates were purposefully sampled to gain varying perspectives from a range of ages, housing options, and academic programs, and focus groups were separated into traditional and post-traditional students. Once the researcher confirmed students’ identity and classified them as either a traditional or post-traditional student, she emailed confirmation to participate and sent a consent form (Appendix C). She sent a reminder email to each participant the day before the focus group.
The researcher intended to conduct a total of six focus group over the summer of 2018, three for traditional students and three for post-traditional students each consisting of 5-6 students with a target of 15 traditional and 15 post-traditional students. However, few students were present on campus during the summer and the researcher extended the participation time frame until after the start of the fall 2018 semester. A second email to eligible participants that excluded those who had already participated was sent in August 2018. The researcher completed nine focus groups of 15 traditional and 6 post-traditional students through September 2018.
Focus groups were conducted in English and held on campus during the summer and fall of 2018. Each session lasted an average of 75 minutes, and each participant received a $20 Visa gift card at the completion of the focus group.
Each focus group was audio and video recorded on an iPad with a Shure MV88 microphone, with a Sony air-gapped digital recorder used as a backup. The audio was uploaded to Temi, an online transcription application service for initial transcription support, and the researcher verified, transferred and transcribed each session into Word. She reviewed the video
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file while reading the Word transcriptions to ensure proper response attribution of participants. Transcriptions identified participants by pseudonym, and a separate Excel document contained the names and demographic information of participants. All documents were stored on the researcher’s password-protected home computer, were backed up in Dropbox, and were stored on her work computer in her office at CatholicU. The audio and video files will be deleted once the author has successfully defended her dissertation. No intentional follow up concerning the focus groups occurred with the students, though the researcher did email students on issues regarding enrollment and financial aid as a responsibility of her position at the university. In addition, she mingled with students at various campus events, again in relation to her capacity as campus administrator.
Data Analysis
The nine questions that were modified from the 39-question CECE were intentionally chosen to represent the nine indicators of a culturally engaging campus environment. Rather than using a Likert scale to capture responses as intended by the CECE, the researcher modified the questions to determine how and why they are enacted on campus because “theoretical propositions stemming from how and why questions can be extremely useful in guiding case study analysis,” (Yin, 2009, p. 131). Using case study methodology and leveraging the theoretical frameworks of sense of belonging and culturally engaging campus environments, the researcher attempted to capture common experiences of Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU by analyzing student response data through a coding process to determine emerging themes from the respondents.
After the focus groups were conducted, digitally recorded, and transcribed, the text was input into Dedoose, an online qualitative data analysis software program. The author analyzed
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each line of data in Dedoose for codes, words or short phrases that encapsulated the essence of the perceptions of the respondents (Saldana, 2016). In addition, the researcher transcribed her field notes and journal entries as additional sources of evidence to increase the strength of the case study (Yin, 2009). Codes and themes were determined by the author and informed by the theoretical framework. Each of the initial codes and emergent themes were reviewed among and across each focus group and across participants. Because three additional questions that are not related to the CECE were asked (regarding their previous educational experience, hours worked, and ideas to improve the campus), it was anticipated that students would provide responses not related to cultural environment, but still important to their education. The lack of course availability, for instance, could be such an example and could be considered by some as “rival interpretations,” (Yin, 2017) for students not feeling a sense of belonging to the campus. These responses were also coded for themes and analyzed as issues negatively impacting or supporting Latinx students. Special attention was paid to similarities and differences in codes between traditional students and post-traditional students. Any codes that eventually seemed irrelevant were discarded.
To answer the research questions, codes were divided into three initial categories: strategies that support Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU, responses that identify barriers to Latinx students at CatholicU, and feelings or perceptions about the environment at CatholicU. Once data had been separated into these three initial categories, responses were clustered together based on the emergence of patterns for the development of codes and ultimately themes (Saldana, 2016). Thirty-seven codes were originally identified within the barriers category, examples included action, advising, activities/events, bureaucracy, commuters, competition, competing priorities, cost, courses limited, course sequencing, culture shock, communication,
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community, curriculum, DACA, faculty (training), housing, MAGA, no intentionality, parents/family support, Spanish language barrier, registration, representation, stereotype reinforcement, superiority, skin privilege, student support services, transition, and white savior. The code of bureaucracy grew to include items such as registration, course sequencing, transition/onboarding, advising and buying books. The code of emails without action focused primarily on issues surrounding DACA and action. Faculty bias became the umbrella theme for faculty (training), representation, curriculum and white savior. Lack of community grew to encompass areas such as alone, competition, commuters and housing. Lack of relatable staff was the overarching theme for student support services, activities/events, representation and stereotype reinforcement. Some themes did not resonate across or among focus groups, such as competing priorities and cost, and were ultimately dropped from the barriers category.
The success strategies category initially included 39 codes, for example: adult camaraderie, bilingual campus, Catholic, co-curricular programming, community of other Latinx, curriculum, emails, faculty representation, Fr. Mateo, Jesuit, learning commons, non-Latinx faculty, open minded, other POC, presidential emails, service learning, scholarship, similar cultural experiences, Spanish, staff support, student group, Unidos, and work study. The code of general support of faculty became an overarching theme and ultimately comprised the codes such as flexibly and general support. The code of Latinx faculty came to include the codes of Father Mateo and Spanish professors, while supportive non-Latinx faculty became the umbrella theme for codes such as open minded, welcoming and teacher ed. Unidos remained its own code, as did Spanish. Items that did not resonate across and among focus groups, such as artwork and bilingual campus were eventually removed from the success category.
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The final category, perceptions of the campus, was ultimately deemed not worthy of its own category, because of the way students identified their feelings about campus as either barriers or success strategies. For example, a student shared that she felt that she did not fit in with other students on the campus. Though this was indeed her feeling, this example was ultimately coded into the alone/isolation theme under the barriers category. Each of the codes that were originally included within the perceptions and feeling category was re-coded into the barriers or success strategy categories or dropped from the analysis.
Trustworthiness
The author is Latina who was raised culturally Catholic, though not in a Jesuit tradition. She did not attend Catholic schools or universities, though her children have. She had been employed at CatholicU for approximately nine months prior the onset of focus groups, and prior to her hire, she read in the local newspaper about negative cultural issues on the campus including some students participating in a #CatholicUisnotme campaign.
To mitigate bias, the author took notes during each session, and journaled her thoughts following each session. Further, she journaled throughout the data analysis process to document decisions or assumptions that had arisen.
The author’s advisor of her dissertation research project served as a third-party reviewer of the findings to assist with validation of data interpretation and bias mitigation. We met at various points in the data collection and data analyses processes—following the first focus group, at the completion of data collection, following the first round of coding, and at the completion of coding. His audits helped to ensure the findings were grounded in the data,
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contained appropriate category structure, and acknowledged the degree of researcher bias (Creswell & Miller, 2000).
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CHAPTER IV
RESULTS
The purpose of this study was to understand the perspectives of traditional-aged and adult Latinx undergraduates at a Catholic university (dubbed CatholicU) on the cultural engagement of the campus environment. Twenty-one students participated in one of nine focus groups during the summer and fall of 2018. Responses were coded into Success Strategies, Barriers to Success and Perceptions of the Campus environment and results differentiated between adults and traditional-aged students. The perceptions were ultimately deemed to align as either a barrier or success strategy, and eventually coded into those themes. Students identified barriers to their success and strategies that aided in their successful academic and social progression at the university. One additional theme, bureaucratic inefficiencies throughout the university, did not necessarily relate to their Latinx identity, but rather to a deficiency of serving their basic needs as students of any race or background. This chapter addresses the three research questions and utilizes direct quotes from the participants to capture the emotion and sentiments of the participants.
How Culturally Engaging do Latinx Undergraduate Students Find CatholicU
Environment?
Results from the analysis demonstrate that Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU do not find a culturally engaging campus environment. Student participants identified more barriers to their success than they noted strategies that supported their social and academic progression at the university. For example, Teresa, an adult student commented, “I've been here for two years.
I haven't seen or heard anything that is specific to the Latin community.” When culturally engaging support mechanisms were identified by students, these mechanisms were happenstance
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or presented with qualifiers rather than perceived as deliberate strategies developed by the university for the benefit of Latinx student success. Michelle, an adult transfer student noted,
“I can't really say I've been introduced through CatholicU to any of my cultural roots.
The closest we have would be that class. That's only because some of the
readings that we had were Hispanic poems or stories.”
This theme of happenstance and qualifiers for support will be discussed further as part of research question two. It is sufficient to say that students did not find CatholicU to be culturally engaging. Detailed analysis that demonstrates that Latinx undergrads do not find the CatholicU environment culturally engaging is more thoroughly addressed within research question number two.
Further, campus bureaucracy was consistently noted as barrier to students’ academic and social progression. Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs in that people must have basic necessities such as food and shelter met before they can develop a social belonging, students may experience a similar set of foundational needs that must be met in an academic setting before they can develop a sense of belonging and take advantage of a culturally engaging environment. With extensive bureaucracy and without fundamental provisions in place, CatholicU did not meet the basic student needs of the Latinx population. Given this failure to provide for basic student needs, it is clear that CatholicU would be unable to provide for higher order needs of cultural engagement. The impact of bureaucracy on the student experience is described below.
Bureaucracy
Though not directly related to their identity as Latinx students, undergraduates across all nine focus groups acknowledged numerous university bureaucratic challenges that hindered their student experience at CatholicU. Fifty-five of 282 barrier comments (19.4%) were related to
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shortcomings of baseline expectations that any student would have for a successful collegiate experience, including registration issues, new student onboarding, and difficulty securing adequate academic advising.
Student onboarding. Michelle, an adult business major, shared how the campus didn’t provide a welcoming environment when she first enrolled and continues to put her off by not having her advisor’s proactive support. She stated, “Coming into the school, I was never really given like a tour. I didn't get a map that gave me where to go... I never actually met my advisor. To this day [we] still haven't [met] in person.” Marisa, a traditional student, was also less than impressed with her onboarding experience. When she arrived for her appointment, her courses were not geared for her chosen major. She stated:
We just got an email and they were like, we'll make an appointment and then you're gonna come in.. .and they give me random classes and now I would have 13 hour days because I would have an 8 a.m. and then a six o’clock class... I don't know how to buy books.
Though traditional and adult undergraduate students experience different onboarding processes, both students groups identified flaws with their experiences.
Registration issues. Course sequencing and course availability were noted as problematic. Adult student Alba, a senior, shared her struggle with staying on target to graduate when her academic department did not routinely offer required courses. When a required senior level course was full one term, she had to double up during the next eight-week session. She shared:
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I'm at the end of my program. I could not get a class, like there was nothing I could get and so did a couple of things. I had to double up on a class on two classes, which was really hard. And then I had all these issues with like my student loans because it looked like I wasn't in part time and so they, you know, I had to do my own self deferment and then I had to file more paperwork here at the school so that they would contact my, uh, my loan Nelnet and Navient and all that kind of stuff. So that was a pain. But the two classes, um, at the same time, that's really hard to do when you're a working adult.
Traditional aged junior, Marisa, also experienced registration issues the first time she registered herself as a spring semester freshman. She remembered:
They told me that like you register on a certain day, but I had no idea that if you don't wait up until midnight to do it, you don't have a space in class. And I'm like, if you hadn't told me that I would have gone in at like noon and seen that there was no spaces left. Like you don't get that information.
Student frustration with lack of course availability and course sequencing resonated with both adults and traditional-aged students and hindered their ability to make successful academic progression at CatholicU.
Academic advisors. Issues with academic advising were abound for both traditional and adult students. Because course requirements were not well communicated, or course availability was limited students became increasingly reliant on personal support of their academic advisors to succeed academically. When students could not access those advisors, their trajectory was impacted negatively. Cassie, a traditional sophomore became emotional when she shared her experience meeting her advisor for the first time. She expected her advisor would not only
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encourage her academic program of choice, but would register on her behalf since the university did so when she first entered. She remembered:
My advisor was terrible. So I went in for an advising appointment and he, I wanted to be an English major. Like originally he asked me like where I went to look up words and I was like Google. And he was like, well maybe you shouldn't be an English major because we use the Webster's dictionary. It was just like telling me that I wasn't interested in anything and maybe I shouldn't be like thinking about college or like thinking about like stuff like that. So I just left the appointment. It was Halloween. I just remember I was crying in my costume, and I left and I didn't even know how to register for classes because I thought that that was his job because I've never had to do that for myself.
The bureaucratic inconsistencies confused students and made it difficult to know which emails were important and which information was not relevant to them. They wished for an active student website or portal that contained important dates and how-to information regarding registration. Justine, a twenty-one-year-old traditional senior remembered her challenges as a new student. She shared,
My freshman year I usually, I usually had to seek it out... I tried to ask people but they were not very helpful when it came to that kind of stuff. It was like I would try to find important information that I needed, um, for and that kind of stuff and like I was just lost my freshman year just trying to figure out like the ins and outs of CatholicU... I just had to find it myself. It was like long hours. It's just searching on the web, searching through countless things just or talking to other students but not really anybody from CatholicU.
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While these bureaucratic barriers were not directly related to their Latinx identity, these root problems were so challenging to overcome that attending to cultural engagement seemed an insurmountable task. Whether they hit barriers related to registration, onboarding or academic advising, having sufficient support related to enrollment is foundational for their success as students. If these students were also first generation, these impediments could be seen as unwelcome messages that the university was not committed to enrolling students who did not already know how to enroll themselves.
What are Elements of CatholicU’s Environment that Support or Hinder the Engagement of
Latinx Undergraduate Students?
Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU identified barriers that inhibited the cultural engagement of the campus environment as well as support strategies that reinforced a positive cultural environment. Analysis and direct student quotes on their barriers to success and success strategies are identified below.
Barriers to Success
Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU provided 283 quotes identifying barriers to their success at the university. These barriers followed three overarching themes related to a culturally engaging campus environment: a lack of action following words that seemed supportive, a community of peers, and a culturally competent and representative faculty and staff to aid students’ academic and social progression. These themes are described below and direct quotes of both traditional-aged and adult students that best capture the impact of these barriers are included.
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Contemplatives’ Inaction. “Contemplatives in action” is a key Jesuit theme that serves as a reminder to not only engage in intellectual pursuits, but to act on those thoughts in a way that betters humankind. In discussing their barriers to success, undergraduate students at CatholicU were quick to praise formal communications from campus leadership on important topics, but students were frustrated about a seeming lack of action by leadership based on those communications. Fifteen responses out of 283 were recorded (5.3%) on this particular topic. However, when this theme was discussed, the students invoked much passion in the responses.
A related subtheme was students questioning if activities pertinent to the Latinx community were actually occurring on campus and if the students were simply unaware. In either case, the result is the same: students cannot attend events if they are not occurring or they are unaware that they exist.
Emails are not enough. In June of 2018, the president of CatholicU issued a press release and statement regarding the immigration crisis on the US Mexico border, calling for an end to the family separation policy enacted under the Trump presidency. This was not the first time the Jesuit leader of the university expressed his support of immigrants, as he publicly reconfirmed his support of DACA students in September of 2017, and in August of 2017 penned an op-ed in the local newspaper expressing support for a unified nation and denouncing “white supremacists, the Klu Klux Klan and Nazi ideology.” These communications were shared both externally and with the campus community and made a strong impression of commitment to social justice for the students I interviewed. However, as impactful as these sentiments were, students expressed a longing for more: what action would these words heed and how would the university become a leader to enact change on these issues?
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Adult student Ana appreciated receiving emails from the President, but also wanted to know if scholarships to afford the private university tuition would be made available to the undocumented students that CatholicU was accepting. Ana began:
I feel like there is support like maybe through social media, but I'm not sure exactly what else, how else they're supporting it.. .because I work with high school students and a lot of them are reluctant to go to college right after high school because they don't have a lot of financial assistance.
Jennifer, a twenty-year-old traditional sophomore, also appreciated the campus wide communication and wanted assurance that a higher level policy change was in the works. She explained:
Yeah. I, I really appreciate the emails he sent but I have followed up and I mean I'm assuming he’s busy, but I followed up a couple of times on the emails he sent because a lot of them say like, Oh this is how we just feel. And I'm like, okay, then when are you talking to the senator and the governor, like are you taking any action to make your voice heard? And so far I haven't received a response but I'm hoping that's in the back of their mind.
Marisa, a twenty-one-year-old junior shared her disappointment by stating, “You're like, really? Like there are DACA students here and we only got an email. Like that's not really saying much.” Jaime, a twenty-two-year-old senior agrees and would like to see a campus environment that openly and authentically expresses its values in public view. He shared,
It'd be really helpful to for there to be explicit acknowledgements that your identity is welcome... what if, when you walked in, it said DACA students are welcome here, no
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questions asked. That's just how we, whatever, whatever lens you want to look at it, oh,
that's the right thing to do humanistically or Jesuit lens. That's the right thing to do.
Students appreciated CatholicU sending emails to the entire campus on issues that were politically and socially important to them, such as messages of support regarding DACA students and immigrants. However, they were equally disappointed that campus leadership did not follow these communications with visible actions of support on these same topics.
If something Latim happening, no communication. In addition to a perceived lack of action following important declarations of support for Latinx communities, students were unclear if events or programming relevant to their interests were occurring on the campus, or if events were happening but poorly communicated. Alba is 49 years old and stressed three different times during our meeting that, in her nine years as a nontraditional student at CatholicU, my invitation to participate in this focus group was the first time anyone from the university had reached out to her to understand her experience at the university. She stated, “Like I said, you're the first one that's, you know, reached out and said hey, we're having like a focus group.
Anybody interested or... that's never happened. I've never seen anything like that.
Vincent, a twenty-one-year-old traditional junior, also expressed his lack of awareness of programing for Latinx communities, and wondered if he was simply not aware of existing programming. He shared:
But I don't think there's very many opportunities on campus. But I could be wrong.
Again, I don't know much about the services, but as a student from what I've heard, as a
Latinx student from what I've heard, it's not that much.
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Because silence is often viewed as complicit agreement, students stressed the importance of the university’s leadership to verbally condemn actions harmful to the Latinx community. However, the students also wanted a follow up to these declarations with visible and public actions to reinforce the university’s commitments and public displays condemning hate. These actions might have included programming specific to Latinx students. However, students could not identify if such opportunities existed. In either case, the end result is the same. Students cannot attend events if they do not occur or they do not know they exist.
Lack of Community. Catholic University enrolls more than 900 undergraduate Latinx students in both traditional 16-week programs and accelerated non-traditional academic formats. Though this equates to 18% of the undergraduate student body, a lack of community of peers was noted by both traditional and adult Latinx students. Of the 283 quotes related to barriers at the university, 76 comments (26.8%) related to a lack of community, with 63 responses (82.9%) from traditional students, and 13 remarks (17.1%) noted by adult students. While some comments related to a general lack of community, such as an absence of school spirit, most community themes centered around feelings of isolation that was difficult for Latinx students to find each other or authentically connect with non-Latinx students. In addition, students noted a competitive rather than collective campus environment, and neglect of commuter students who were thought to be unable to afford to live on campus.
Alone: ciao, that’s it. Although there is a relatively large Latinx population on campus, it was not uncommon for participants in my nine focus groups to not know one another, which seemed especially odd in instances where they had lived in the same residence hall or were studying in the same academic program. For example, Natalie and Lizzy are both traditional sophomores who live on the second floor of a suite-style residence hall. For more than a month,
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they lived only a few doors down from one another in Green Hall yet it was nearly an hour into our discussion before they realized they lived down the hall from each other. Lack of connection in the residence halls with Latinx peers was not limited to Natalie and Lizzy. Jaime and Justine, both juniors, lived in the same residence hall their freshmen year but did not know each other. During the focus group, Jaime joked that if he had spent more time in the dorm, perhaps they would have met. He explained,
I, uh, so I wanted to get like the quote unquote full college experience. So I lived here for two years, freshman and sophomore year. And I found that even though I wasn't very conscious about it.. .most of the people in my dorm hall, since they didn't look like me, I,
I simply couldn't relate to them. And so I found myself while they were like going off to parties or like doing stuff on campus, I would go back [home] and hang out with my friends that I went to school with and I didn't really realize that that happened until the year after.. .looking back, I definitely spent the most of my time, especially that first semester of freshman year off campus on the weekends even though I lived here.
Grace and Justine nodded as Jamie shared his story. It was also theirs. Justine, who also lived on campus in the same resident hall during the same time as Jaime, shared a similar sentiment. “That was the same experience for me. Like my freshman year. Like I couldn't relate to anybody. Like it just felt like, oh, I had to just go off campus and go find my own way.”
Residence halls were not the only areas that could benefit from leadership in community development, as Latinx students would also benefit from intentional development in their academic programs, whether online or face to face. Stella, a traditional neuroscience major, lamented the dearth of Latinx interaction within her academic major by sharing:
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I go to events here and there, but I'm not really, I'm [not] part of like any many groups besides having to do with my major and my studies. So I feel like it was a little bit more difficult for me to meet, um, people of my same ethic culture.
Ana and Carlota, both adult students majoring in applied psychology, did not know each other prior to the focus group. Carlota compares her experience at CatholicU to her previous collegiate experiences. She shared:
I'm comparing my experience with, a huge community of Latino community at [previous community college]. And I remember that every time... if there was a Latino in class, whether that Latino spoke a different language, Spanish or not, we will be able to connect it to each other and build a relationship right away just because we were Latinos and it was so easy to find and, and get into the Latino community. And here, um, I haven't had that experience. And even if I see someone else that's Latino, it's more like I'm going to class, I'm going to class and listening to what I have to listen and participate in class.
Once the class is over, Ciao that's, it has been my experience here.
Lack of community reported by focus group participants seemed to extend to the general student population and an unwelcoming campus environment. Whether these disconnects centered around politics or socioeconomics, Latinx students struggled to find non-Latinx students with whom to connect. Nineteen-year-old Elena shared,
In class, we do meet a lot of people and you know, you feel like you're starting to get along with them, but then you see them outside and they automatically like kind of shut you down. It's just like, wow. Were you just like trying to, you know, talk to me in class
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because you had no one else but now that you're with your friends, it's like, oh I don't know her.
Feelings of Latinx isolation on CatholicU campus seemed to heighten after the 2016 presidential election. Various students described how the campus felt tense and they felt further marginalized as Latinx students. Traditional junior Marisa shared her experience with a MAGA shirt wearer after Trump’s election. She stated,
Like usually campus is okay. But then like the day after that election, and you could just feel the tension.. .then to see that [MAGA] shirt you're like.. .Like you don't think I should be here... a lot of my family are immigrants and you wearing that shirt is saying like [I] shouldn't be here either. And the kid wearing that shirt was like, “Oh well I believe this and this and that” and we're like, Dude you're wearing that shirt when half of the class is Hispanic students. So it was just very uncomfortable to be in that class when that happened.
Traditional senior Jamie was also negatively impacted and shared his Trump election-related experience. He shared,
But it's very difficult. Especially after November ninth of 2016.. .to feel like I can’t necessarily trust people who aren't people of color.. .1 know white students who were my friends and I know they, for example, have a political leaning that affects people like myself every single day... It's hard for me to then say.. .1 know that you voted for Donald Trump because it's a political opinion of yours that my family members should be deported. That doesn't translate to me as you caring about my success.
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Political tensions appeared to exacerbate feelings of isolation and lack of community experienced by Latinx students at CatholicU.
Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU found difficulties in establishing community connections both with Latinx students and non-Latinx students. Latinx students struggled to find connections in traditional spaces, such as residence halls or academic programs, and were equally challenged with developing community with non-Latinx students in the general campus environment. This lack of connection was exacerbated by political differences among the student body and were a prevalent experience for both traditional-aged and adult students.
Competition: the Hunger Games. The challenges for Latinx undergrads to develop community, whether amongst themselves or with the general student population was also exacerbated by a strong sense of competition among the students. Whether by default or by design, the CatholicU environment is one that is perceived to value competition to the detriment of student ability to connect on campus, especially for those in traditional programs. This competitive nature seems to be both ingrained in the academic majors and encouraged by certain faculty members, which in turn contributes to students competing with one another rather than supporting one another. Solana is a twenty-year-old traditional student who shared:
I think that's a little hard because I feel like in college it's kind of you've reached the point where you're like, it's constant competition with one another. So like you're trying to almost like outdo another person or try to like be better... .Like there's no one really there like besides you.. .1 kind of see it as like, you kind of fending for yourself where you're just, you're there to do good for yourself. Kind of like there's no one that's going to do better to help you succeed but yourself.
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Traditional junior Jennifer agreed by sharing, “Like I know one person who's helped.. .but other than that really everyone that I've met is here for themselves and if you need help, like no one's there to help you.”
It appeared that some of this student competition was promoted by faculty. Ariana, a traditional senior explained how she felt a chemistry teacher promoted a culture of competition:
There's just this one girl was like rich and like, you know, she comes from a really small white town and then like she would compete with me all the time and I was like, what? I didn’t even know that I was competing with her.. .this one chemistry teacher that I did have that was really, really bad with like showing like sensitivity to certain students and then like if they needed extra help.. .1 don't think like that atmosphere helped at all. Like make it so that students were okay asking for help. Like, I had so many friends that were like, Ariana, I don't want to go to the teacher. And then like, you know that I think that explains why the girl was so okay with competing and stuff all the time because the teacher just kind of like just reflected that.
Cassie and Marisa phrased the competitive culture of CatholicU succinctly. Cassie stated, “We don't have that community.. .but like we're forced to do it by ourselves.” Marisa added, “I feel like we're in the Hunger Games all the time.” A culture of competition tended to divide rather than unite Latinx students and others on the CatholicU campus. While a collectivist environment may holistically help students to succeed, the competitive nature of their experiences clashed against community building.
No community for commuters. Because of the nature of the adult programs, nontraditional students do not generally live on campus, and are commuters for their entire program.
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Traditional students, on the other hand, are required to live on campus for their freshmen and sophomore years unless they receive a special dispensation. For this reason, being a commuter student was more impactful on the experience to traditional Latinx undergraduates than was for nontraditional students. In one focus groups session Marisa and Cassie described the perceptions of commuters and the challenge commuter students face in making connections with other students. Marisa stated:
I feel like you're already seen, oh, you're a commuter, like you can't even afford to live on campus. And then adding on top of that, we're Hispanic that's even, like Oh, stay away from them, type of thing. So it was kind of hard because it's like in the dorm that everyone gets to know each other. So [students who live in the dorms] make that group of friends and then when you're only here for a few hours a day, it's kind of hard to get in those groups once they're made.
Cassie added:
That's why I moved here. I didn't live here for two weeks at like the beginning of the year and I was like, I am so sad. Like I'm, I'm not making any friends. Nobody's talking to me.. .Like I felt so like pushed out and so alone that it was depressing to me that like that nobody wanted to talk to me or that nobody even looked at me. I like eat lunch upstairs in my mom's office because my mom works here. So like I would just sit with her and like it was just sad because then I'd go back down. Then nobody would look at me. So I moved in. I like put myself in debt and like so much more debt just so I could feel like... that I'm wanted. And like I know for a fact that if I didn't live here I would not want to come to CatholicU.
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Because many Latinx traditional students are also commuter students, these students may miss out on opportunities to connect with their peers. In addition, those who live on campus, whether Latinx or not, miss an important opportunity to engage and learn from these commuters as well. Jaime explained,
If you stay on campus, it's hard to find others that also stay on campus. A huge chunk of Latinx students are commuters.. .1 had a class with many, many folks who are like myself are also in the business school like I am.. .But I also know that these are the same folks that I wouldn't necessarily be able to hang out with after 6:00 p.m. or so, or even in some cases like 4:00 p.m. because they're already gone back home or work or whatever the case is. So it's not that hard to find them on campus, but whether or not there's opportunities to truly develop a friendship with them, that's what's lacking, I would say.
Issues of community were important to the Latinx undergraduates of CatholicU. They shared stories of loneliness and an inability to develop a strong community with other Latinx students either in the residence halls or in their academic programs, and how political differences challenged their ability to connect with non-Latinx students on the campus in general. Additionally, the university’s competitive rather than collectivist environment forced divisions against rather than connecting with non-Latinx students. Finally, traditional students who commuted to campus found it difficult to connect with Latinx and non-Latinx students. This was not only a loss for the Latinx commuters, however, as the general CatholicU community missed the opportunity to authentically engage with commuters and learn from their valuable experiences.
Lack of Cultural Competency. Lack of Cura Personalis. Undergraduate Latinx students at CatholicU noted a lack of cultural competency across the university campus in areas
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critical to their academic progression including, faculty and curriculum, staff and programming, and service learning experiences, generating 79 of 283 comments (28.0%). Seventeen of 79 comments (21.5%) were from adult students. While undergraduate Latinx students comprise 18% of the student body, only 5.8% of faculty of all ranks and 16.4% of staff and administrators at Catholic University self-identified as Latinx. As there is not parity in student demographics with either faculty or staff, it is imperative that those employed by the university are well versed in designing and executing curricula and co-curricular experiences that are relevant to and capitalize on Latinx student experiences. Absent these experiences, students were quick to identify the areas of bias on campus and the negative impacts this had on their sense of belonging.
Faculty bias and inability to address issues of diversity. The impact of faculty on Latinx students at CatholicU cannot be emphasized enough. Across every focus group, students cited faculty’s lack of cultural competence as barriers to their success at CatholicU. Even if faculty were well-meaning, students did not perceive that they had the skill sets to relate to diverse student populations or support meaningful cross-cultural dialog.
Marisa, a traditional aged student, was hoping to have a robust discussion with her teacher and peers to help debrief the angst she was feeling after the presidential election of Donald Trump. Because the class focused on social justice issues, she expected this would be the conversation for the day. Her faculty was not eager, or perhaps unable to facilitate such a discussion. She recalled,
I remember last year when Trump got elected and we were in a social justice class and our professor specifically said, we're not going to discuss what happened and we're not going to talk about how everyone's feeling. Um, and there was a student there that wore
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a make make America great again shirt. And there was a lot of Hispanic students in that class and you could just feel the tension in the class and on campus that whole day. And we were like, okay, well we're going to come in and talk about what happened, talk about our feelings, and she's straight up was like, we're not going to discuss this, we're gonna write your things on paper. And then I'll read over it. And we were like, are you serious? Like you're not going to talk about what happened when this affects so many of us? And she just thought it was like we're not going to discuss it, we don't want to offend others' political views. And I'm like, really? So that was kind of, we were all kind of like, okay, we think this is something we should talk about. And it was never discussed.
This lack of cultural competency in faculty caused students to hesitate to seek help, as they were afraid it would reinforce negative stereotypes about Latinx students. Vincent, a twenty-one-year-old traditional sophomore explained,
Yeah. Blind spot. So yeah, so like in terms of helping you know, Latino students and making lives better for us. It's not that they don't want to, it's just that they don’t one know how, two, more importantly they don't see the need for it. So yes. Yeah, a lot of white people.. .I'm already like apprehensive just to talk to them [faculty] just because they're white.
Men and women for and with others is key Jesuit value at CatholicU that emphasizes the importance of serving others. Five comments by traditional students were made regarding community service in their academic programs. While many students participate in service learning opportunities in the community, Latinx undergrads noted that this endeavor is neither a requirement, nor fully debriefed with participants to prevent the “othering” of those for whom service is being performed. Again, Latinx students were aware of the faculty bias which can set
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an example for the non-Latinx student participants to not fully understand the rationale for the community-based experiences. Students acknowledged non-Latinx peers who exhibited a white savior complex or superiority complex when performing community service. Jaime, a traditional senior explained,
I wish CatholicU facilitated the ability for students who come from those communities to also go back and help fix issues in those communities. You would find probably if you asked, non Latinx students that there are many opportunities. Um, but I also think I also fear that they can approach it with the wrong mentality. They can approach it with a savior complex of sorts. Um, and not really, you know, it's like if I'm feeling altruistic or giving for a day, I may like go out and help this community, but I didn't do the hard work of learning the systemic reasons why the community is where it's at. And so we don't have it, you know, if you're not a quote unquote social justice warrior, really dive into that on your own. CatholicU doesn't really facilitate you being able to grasp that.
Latinx students at CatholicU view faculty as a critical element in their academic journey. However, to better support students’ academic and social progression, faculty would do well to examine biases against Latinx students or others from nondominant communities and secure professional development to work with the students sitting in their classes and as they are leading service opportunities within the community.
Lack of relatable staff and relevant programming. Students expressed a desire to have staff at all levels of the university, from the Board of Trustees to student employees, who looked like them and could relate to their experiences as nondominant students. When Latinx staff were not present, relevant co-curricular programming and services were not readily available for the students. Lack of representative staff and lack of training for existing staff were noted. Students
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recalled diverse, non-Latinx staff who sponsored a fledgling cinco de mayo event, and once the staff left the university the event was discontinued. In addition, they recalled an affirmative action bake sale that targeted non-dominant communities as a hurtful experience. However, the attempt at follow up made the incident worse rather than better due to less than competent staff. From the Board to student workers, Latinx students are strongly interested in representative staff with cultural competencies to serve their campus needs appropriately. Vincent, a former resident advisor recalled his experience working in the residence halls:
I think where they're at position wise, I think it's super important. I mean, like I said, we just hired a new hall director, the guy under Bradley, we just hired. That was two opportunities where, you know, a person of color would have been super nice to have. Um, I know when I was an RA I had no one to go to higher up than me. And I know for students it's definitely rough seeing RAs and then you don't feel comfortable talking to them because they're all white. So you go, I'll go and talk to the hall director. Oh, they're white too. I'll go higher. White. White. White, you know.
Other students worried that their accessing services might reinforce existing negative stereotypes of Latinx students. In explaining why they do not feel comfortable using the tutoring center that is staffed by white student peers, traditional student Cassie explained,
Because I had like a girl that I tutored with that was at the at the writing center and she's like, would tell me about all these people. Like, oh my God, this person doesn't know how to write or like I fixed this whole paper for them and I'm like, that doesn't make me want to go because now they, all the students probably think of us like that.
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Here Cassie worries about the existing negative portrayal of Latinx students and how her utilization of tutoring services might exacerbate this image of Latinx students. Hearing her tutor complain about other students’ deficiencies, leads Cassie to believe that this tutor might also complain about her—portraying Latinx students negatively.
Though students had already discussed the missed opportunities for strong cross-cultural dialog in the classroom, they also noted how these types of discussions could be facilitated in a co-curricular environment. This would, however, require staff to be well versed in this area. Traditional student Sol ana noted,
I don't think there's a lot of opportunity for good dialogue, you know, good conversation with people that are, uh, have different values or different beliefs, different backgrounds than you. And I think in main part of that is, once again, I think the university is unequipped for that.
Further addressing the lack of competence in addressing difference, Jaime, a twenty-year-old traditional student shared his views on the importance of having diverse staff in the student affairs division for both support and creation of relevant cultural programming stated:
The student activities office, there aren't people of color there.. .But if I'm being honest as a student leader of color.. .1 don't necessarily feel comfortable with the student activities, student affairs staff on that level... do I feel like they grasp or explicitly care about my experience necessarily? No, not at all.
Twenty-one-year-old Vincent, expressed the need for diverse and culturally aware staff across all departments of the university for his lifelong health and wellbeing. He shared,
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I think um over at counseling because I think that's also super has a negative stigma in terms of Latino culture, mental health and things like that... I go there and then it's all white. So you kinda like you know, you don't feel comfortable even though, you know, you do have this opportunity. And so I think in a place like that, super important. Career development, you know. All of a sudden having these super, super important, um, in terms of personal success and personal health and wellbeing, um, positions. For students I think definitely needs to be more diverse, not just in terms of professors and stuff like that, you know. You could arguably get away with white professors, um, but in positions where like it's almost like a mandatory thing, you know, mental health, career development, things like that, residence life and housing, those are the things that are necessary for student success but also, you know, later on in life success and to have no diversity in those positions I think is a tragedy for students.
Recognizing representation impacts on students’ holistic support would advance the Jesuit core value of Cura Personalis, Latin for Care of the Whole Person. Engaging a faculty, staff, curriculum, programming and service learning opportunities that leverage students’ Latinx identity as strength, would be a strong step to fully support the entirety of the Latinx student experience at CatholicU. Additionally, the university would be well advised to consider how its remaining operations, or bureaucratic functions, serve as a support or barrier to students on the campus.
Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU provided their perspectives on barriers to their success at the university that impacted the culturally engaging campus environment. Regarding their Latinx identity, students identified minimal action following words of support from campus leadership, a limited community of peers, and the need for culturally competent faculty and staff.
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Despite these deficiencies, pockets of success were also found to advance their academic journey.
Success Strategies
Students at Catholic University had positive feedback regarding their overall educational experience at the university. However, these responses noted that these instances were more haphazard than strategies employed by the university to intentionally create a culturally engaging campus environment. With more than 200 extracts on positive campus impacts, both adult and traditional students noted the importance of faculty and community support on their success on campus.
Faculty. Across all focus groups, every student interviewed noted the importance of faculty on their success at CatholicU. Of the 232 quotations on success strategies noted by the students, 65 (28%) were in reference to support by faculty members of the university. In general, students felt faculty want them to be academically successful, though students acknowledged that most faculty did not inherently support nor acknowledge their cultural identity. In some instances, students’ cultural identity was acknowledged and validated by both Latinx faculty and certain non-Latinx faculty. This culturally relevant acknowledgment proved just as formative as the general support received, and when combined with generally accepted faculty duties, its cumulative effect was a powerful motivator for student success. Outlined below are the examples of students’ perceptions of the general support of faculty, explicit impacts of Latinx faculty and the positive impressions non-Latinx faculty have had on student success on the campus.
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General support of faculty. More than half of the 65 comments related to faculty were regarding general support on topics about course questions or advising, with 24 (37%) of those 65 comments coming from adult undergraduates, and 41 (63%) from traditional undergraduates. While this support did not explicitly promote Latinx identity, this type of support was described as important to Latinx student success at CatholicU. Natalie, a nineteen-year-old traditional sophomore explained,
I think just in general, the professors are very helpful like when I go to talk to them. I guess it’s not directly towards the Latino community, but um, they're just like always there to help with anything that you need. Like I can go in like at any, any like regular time... and they're willing to help me with whatever I need.
In general, faculty were readily available to students, though students often had to take the lead to ask for help and were the instigators for the relationship development. Helping students navigate course expectation is likely a minimal expectation for faculty, but having flexibility with students was found to support their obligations outside of CatholicU. While this might not be employed to intentionally support their Latinx identity, it did help to support their non-student obligations such as familial responsibilities, and this did prove supportive to their identity. Carlota, a thirty-four-year-old adult student noted the importance of CatholicU faculty being understanding of her outside obligations:
I think that staff or faculty members.. .they're very willing to work with students and doesn't matter what their background is, but they're usually willing to work with students when there are issues. And so, for Latinos or at least for me as a Latina, that is a very, very important... .I'm usually one of those students who like to turn in assignments on time.. .but if there's something going on, I also want to have that opportunity, you know,
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to make up the work or to work out something with the instructor.. .that's something that I really, really value a lot because family for me is the most important thing. Um, and I think that's a common thing in Latinos with families.. .having an instructor that really understands that part, um, it's, it's really valuable for us. So, if it's not exactly something that CatholicU is doing specifically for Latinos, but it's something that Latinos may value when they see that.
Although these support mechanisms were not specific to creating a culturally responsive community, Latinx students found general faculty support to be important to their success on the CatholicU campus.
Latinx faculty. Students referred to the importance of Latinx faculty who provided intentional support of Latinx students, even though there were very few of these faculty on campus. Of the twelve references to Latinx faculty, two were made in adult focus groups and the rest were made by traditional students. Their impact, however, made lasting and relevant impressions on the experiences of the students. Seven quotations about faculty were in reference to a priest who teaches a Latinx Catholicism course and five quotations (7.6%) were about Spanish professors who had influence on students beyond the language curriculum. Distinct from general support of faculty, Latinx faculty members not only addressed the general course-related questions of students, but also offered students comfort and ease that they did not feel when approaching faculty from dominant cultures. According to Vincent, a twenty-one-year-old traditional undergraduate:
I know a professor that I was pretty comfortable with was Father Mateo. And he is you know, I think one of my only if not my only Latino professor.. .1 saw him, and I just like,
I felt, you know, comfortable with him, you know... when I got into class with him I
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already like, it's before class even started the first day I sat down and I was like, I'm comfortable, you know, and like I read through the syllabus and like some of that work was a little much and stuff like I really wasn't really too interested in the reading as it was, like the material, but like I was never stressed about it. I'm like, you know, if I have trouble, I can just talk to him... .1 think that aspect of seeing him up there, you know, a little Hispanic man. That's nice to see. It definitely is. And if he reached out to me like, Vin, you need help or anything, I would definitely be more open to talking to him.
In addition to the impacts of Father Mateo, students were quick to call out other Latinx professors who understood the experience of the students and provided instruction and advice that positively shaped their experiences at CatholicU. Marisa, a twenty-one-year-old traditional student recalled:
Like my Professor Romero when she knew that I was in the nursing program, she was like, you have to fend for yourself. Like she was the person that would motivate me because I told her I didn't make it automatically, and that I had to reapply. And she was a, she's like, these are her words. She's like.. .you have to fend for yourself because you're Latina.. .no one's gonna help you. You have to do this on your own.. .I'm not saying this because I don't want to, like, I don't want to discourage you. She’s like that's the truth at CatholicU... I'm a professor here and I'm telling you this. But it makes a difference because you're like, all right, well at least you're telling me the truth instead of like sugar coating it.
These Latinx faculty provided a validating environment for the undergraduates that ultimately helped them to navigate the campus successfully.
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Non-Latinx faculty: you would think he was part Latinx. In addition to the influence of Latinx faculty, students had examples of non-Latinx faculty who made intentional and positive references to their cultural identity. Sixteen of 65 (24.6%) comments about faculty were about faculty who students perceived as White or otherwise not of Latinx heritage, and the influence of these faculty. Adult undergrad Alba noted:
Last December was my last in-class and um, I think it's Steve Peters I think, I think that's his name. Um, he, he was the kindest soul.. .he was Caucasian but you would think he was part Latino really because he really was like.. .he talked about, um, how Hispanics value family and um, you know, food, you bring food, families that eat together, stay together. And so there was a few times like he bought pizza. Um, so none of us would leave for the break so that we all sat and ate and just, you know, talked how are you doing, how are you this and you know, that kind of stuff... it was the concept he was going for like the Jesuit concept and the Latino community.. .1 mean, I loved, loved, loved, loved the class and I was really glad that was like my last in-class experience.
And you could just feel his soul. He was just the kindest man ever.
Jaime also shared,
The faculty that as a student you develop a relationship that you can tell, understand your background, not from like a literal, like empathetic standpoint. They don't literally understand, but they grasp that this can be a tough transition for you because of how you look. Those are the folks that are often most helpful on the faculty side.
Because these Non-Latinx faculty provided exceptional general student support as well as specifically acknowledging and supporting students’ Latinx identity, their actions embody one of the key Jesuit values, Cura Personalis: Care for the Whole Person. They were also instrumental
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in advancing aspects of the CECE, particularly in developing a humanized environment. These faculty not only cared for the educational advancement of the students, but also were concerned holistically about students’ wellbeing, including students’ history, culture, family and other aspects important to their identities.
Cultural Community. The Jesuit environment of CatholicU is generally perceived to be "welcoming" and "open minded" and areas like the residence halls somewhat contribute to that. However, Latinx students recognize the importance of community to their success in one of three ways: developing friendships with Latinx or other students of color, speaking Spanish, or involvement in a student-run affinity group called Unidos. Traditional and non-traditional Latinx undergrads at CatholicU provided 41 comments on the importance of community at the university that reinforced four CECE themes: cultural familiarity, culturally validating environment, culturally relevant knowledge and a humanized environment.
Other Latinx and students of color. Traditional and non-traditional Latinx undergrads at CatholicU provided 41 comments on the importance of community at the university, and 16 comments were specific to the supportive peer environment created by meeting other Latinx students or students of color. Adult learners provided five of these comments. Although students may have come from different geographical regions (urban versus rural, in state versus out of state), the students discussed the benefits of connecting with others who could relate to their own cultural experiences and how those interactions validated their existence at CatholicU. Jennifer is a twenty-year-old traditional sophomore who attended a predominantly white, private high school before enrolling at CatholicU. She valued being surrounded by students who could relate to her experience without having to always explain herself:
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I definitely feel like it's easier to have conversations with people who have the same background as you. I feel like it's deeper, and I feel more comfortable because even though I went to a high school that is not as much as CatholicU was, it was more, um, less exclusive. I still feel uncomfortable, and I would still tend to be attracted to people who were of similar background as me.
Grace, an eighteen-year-old traditional sophomore attended a more diverse, but private high school and had a similar experience and a revelation during the focus group. She stated,
I find myself leaning more towards like people of color, and I don't do it like intentionally. Like I just now that I look at all my friends like one’s Ethiopian and one's Pakistani, you know, like several of them are Mexican or Guatemalan and I was just like, oh, like I, it's like unconsciously.
Integrating into a comfortable and relatable community was important to both traditional and adult undergraduates at CatholicU. Students differed in many aspects of their lives, such as where they grew up, but they still felt an affinity to peers with whom they could relate culturally.
Importance of speaking Spanish. Twelve of the 41 responses regarding the importance of finding a welcoming community at CatholicU were directly related to speaking Spanish, with adults referencing the language in seven comments and traditional-aged students acknowledging it in five responses. This is notable in that, not all the responses came from students who were native Spanish speakers nor those who considered themselves fluent in the language. Rather, students felt the environment was more welcoming when the Spanish could be heard and spoken freely—and borderline hostile if it could not.
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Lizzy is a nineteen-year-old traditional student who is half Mexican, but whose coloring favors her father’s light skin. Since she arrived at CatholicU, she has tried to better understand and connect with her Latinx heritage, though she recognizes she does not present as Latinx. Regarding Spanish she said:
I actually didn't have a difficult time because I think I just got lucky. Like in my hall, I met my friend Tezcatli and she speaks English fluently, so I mean she's like, it was helping to teach me Spanish, which I really liked. And so, we speak Spanish in front of other people, and I'm still learning. I'm not fluent and no one said anything or gave me any weird looks, but maybe it's because I look more White.
The use and acceptance of Spanish for both native and non-native speakers helped to form a welcoming environment for Latinx undergrads at CatholicU. Ana, a thirty-nine-year-old student who grew up speaking both languages fluently in El Paso simply states, “you feel that support, you know, and you have people that speak your language as well and understand where you're coming from.” Whether students were native Spanish speakers, bilingual in English and Spanish or English-dominant speakers, Latinx students found an environment supportive of the language beneficial to their experience at CatholicU.
Unidos: Searching for their identity. Fifteen of the 41 responses regarding the importance of finding a welcoming community at CatholicU were related to student groups and more specifically in reference to Unidos, a student-lead organization. While adults were quick to note the importance of networking and other academic-related co-curricular organizations, the benefit of Unidos and other similar student activities were relegated to the domain of traditional students, with all fifteen responses emanating from them. It was important to one student to note specifically that this affinity group is a student-run group, not CatholicU run, almost questioning
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if this was a CatholicU success. Vincent explains the benefits of the Unidos experience on students who are trying to better understand the heritage. He said:
Unidos, I think is the main thing for most Latino students here on campus that like really, you know, allows them to interact with other people or other Latino students and like really just as she said like it's a different backgrounds or different culture every meetings and things like that. Like that's super helpful, especially for kids that are searching for their identity as a Latino student or anything like that.
Further, Sofia 19-year-old undergraduate describes how Unidos fills a campus void in student cultural programming. She explained, “Aside from Unidos, like that's about it. I mean in Unidos is where you see that culture and that stuff celebrated, but outside of that, I don't think I've seen it very much.”
However, as a group that targets traditional aged students, many of whom live on campus, the timing of programming of Unidos does not always work for adult students or students who commute to campus. Marisa raised this point:
There was like a club or what it's called, but they like do something for day of the dead every year, I think. But again, it's like um also people that I know are commuters that are Hispanic. So, it's like when they do it at 8:00 at night, you're like, I'm not going to stay till 8:00 p.m. when I have nowhere [on campus] to be [until the program starts],
A supportive peer environment can be enhanced by involvement in culturally themed student organizations, and Unidos has proven to be a pivotal group for traditional CatholicU students to connect. While the impact of Unidos was instrumental for traditional students, the groups was not a viable support mechanism for adult students and students who commute.
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Supportive faculty, especially those who share a cultural identity or those who positively acknowledged students’ cultural heritage were found to positively influence Latinx undergraduates’ sense of belonging at CatholicU. Additionally, supportive peer communities of other Latinx students positively influence Latinx undergraduates’ sense of belonging at CatholicU. Again, it should be noted that none of these factors appear to be intentionally cultivated by CatholicU.
Do Traditional Undergraduates and Post-Traditional Undergraduates Perceive the
Campus Environment Similarly?
The student responses for the themes of bureaucracy, barriers, and successes held true for both traditional-aged and adult Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU. However, not all subthemes were universally experienced by all students. Two areas in particular, lack of community and benefits of Unidos student group were identified by traditional students but not by adults. This is not unusual considering the majority of adults are themselves commuter students and Unidos is not a group that is designed for nor targeted at adult learners. As such, it is the researcher’s opinion that traditional and post-traditional undergraduates perceive the CatholicU campus environment similarly. Table 1 below presents the representation of student responses across all subthemes of the similarities and discrepancies across focus groups.
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Table II
Representation of Latinx students by subthemes and track
Traditional- Adult Latinx Undergraduates
Subtheme Aged Latinx Undergraduates
Bureaucracv
Registration Issues X X
Student Onboarding X X
Academic Advisors X X
Barriers to Latinx Cultural Enaaaement
Emails Without Action X X
Poor Communication or Lack of Latinx Opportunities X X
Feelings of Isolation, Alone X X
Competitive Rather than Collectivist Orientation X X
No Community for Commuters X
Faculty Bias and Inability to Address Diversity X X
Lack of Relatable Staff and Relevant Programming X X
Success Strateaies: for Latinx Cultural Enaaaement
General Support of Faculty X X
Latinx Faculty X X
Supportive Non-Latinx Faculty X X
Other Latinx Students X X
Spanish Language X X
Unidos Student Group X
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Through their participation in one of nine focus groups, 21 Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU identified barriers to their success and strategies that aided in their successful academic and social progression regarding the cultural engagement of the campus environment. They also identified one additional theme, bureaucratic inefficiencies that did not necessarily relate to their Latinx identity but hindered their basic needs as students preventing them from developing a strong sense of connection at the university. These students did not find the CatholicU campus particularly culturally engaging, identified both barriers and success strategies, and most experiences were in sync among adult and traditional learners.
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CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION
The Latinx population is largest minority in the United States, but students are not completing college at rates comparable to their White counterparts (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). A potential reason for this gap in completion may be that Latinx undergraduates experience college environments that are not culturally engaging, which limits their ability to develop a sense of belonging on the campus. Thirty four percent of Catholics in the US are Latinx, yet little is known about their perceptions of the Catholic college environment (Contreras, 2016).
The purpose of this research study was to understand how culturally engaging Latinx students at a Catholic university in the Southwest, dubbed CatholicU, found the university environment.
This researcher determined that Latinx undergraduates do not find the environment of CatholicU culturally engaging. Students experienced extensive bureaucracies related to enrollment, onboarding and academic advising, and experienced barriers to Latinx cultural engagement evidenced by lack of action following important sentiments from senior leadership, either a lack of opportunities targeted toward Latinx students or poor communication regarding these opportunities. Students also described feelings of isolation, a competitive environment, and a faculty and staff who lacked abilities to promote diversity or provide culturally relevant programming. Students did acknowledge supportive aspects related to their Latinx cultural engagement with faculty who were generally helpful, even if they did not fully acknowledge their Latinx identify. Though these numbers were small, students expressed the significance of taking courses with and mentorship of Latinx faculty, and the importance of non-Latinx faculty who acknowledged and valued their cultural identities. Students appreciated the community they found in other Latinx students and also valued hearing Spanish on the campus.
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These findings included the perspectives of both traditional-aged and adult Latinx undergraduates, who typically experience the academic environment at CatholicU differently from one another. Traditional students tend to enroll in sixteen-week semester courses often during the day, while adults tend to enroll in post-traditional eight-week programs that may be offered online or in the evenings. Though students participated in different academic settings, they shared similar cultural experiences regarding the campus environment, with the exception of experiences related to commuter students and with Unidos, a Latinx affinity student group.
Discussion
Using the CECE framework, the researcher determined that Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU do not find the campus environment culturally engaging. While much has been written on sense of belonging of Latinx college students in general (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005; Nunez, 2009), there is little known about those enrolled at Catholic institutions (Contreras, 2016). As such, the findings of this study provided unique insights on the Latinx students’ lack of cultural engagement at a Catholic institution and advance the higher education literature with this addition.
The limited existing research on Latinx Catholic college students has focused on traditional-aged Latinx students, those who transitioned to a Catholic university directly from high school (Contreras, 2016; Raphael, et al., 2003) and didn’t specifically address the cultural engagement of the Catholic college environment nor its impact on Latinx students’ sense of belonging. This study included the perspectives of adult Latinx undergraduates, some of whom had previous college experience. In addition, this research specifically addressed the cultural engagement of the college environment by using Museus’s CECE framework (2014) in a Catholic university setting. Although traditional and adult students had varying life experiences
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prior to enrolling at CatholicU, their perceptions of cultural engagement of the campus environment were consistent in most aspects. Three major themes, bureaucracy, barriers to Latinx cultural engagement, and success strategies forLatinx cultural engagement, produced 16 subthemes in which adults and traditional students differed in only two areas. Traditional students noted an additional barrier for Latinx students who commuted to campus and did not benefit from the experience of living in residence halls. Because adult undergraduates do not typically live in residence halls, commuting to campus was perceived as an ordinary occurrence rather than a barrier. Additionally, traditional students noted the importance of Unidos, a Latinx-focused student group, as a supportive strategy for their success. Unidos targets traditional-aged students, not older Latinx students. As such, adult students did not discuss the importance of this student group on their success at CatholicU. This is not to say, however, that adults would not benefit from social and academic groups that were celebratory of their Latinx identity. Rather, that this group was not an opportunity of which they were aware nor targeted as members. The general agreement between adult and traditional students indicated that regardless of different academic environments—sixteen- or eight-week courses, daytime or evening courses, online or face to face classes—both the adult and traditional Latinx students perceived a lack of cultural engagement at CatholicU.
Perhaps the most eye-opening finding associated with this research study was the extent that bureaucratic obstacles hampered the abilities of Latinx students to succeed at CatholicU. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy (1943), Latinx undergraduates have basic student needs—such as the ability to secure necessary courses, adequate onboarding and sufficient academic advising— that must be met before they can aspire to developing a sense of belonging on the college campus. If students perceived the lack of basic support as an indifferent or even hostile,
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students’ sense of belonging is diminished (Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005; Nunez, 2009). “Proactive philosophies” is one of the nine factors of the CECE model (Museus et al., 2014) and is descriptive of actions that provide support to students in ways that are more significant than simply relaying information. The sheer number of bureaucratic issues at CatholicU related to this theme proved an overwhelming obstacle for students. Again, without this foundation it seems impossible for a university to create a culturally engaging environment for Latinx students.
Could CatholicU actively support all nine aspects of the CECE model for Latinx students they would achieve their value of Cura Personalis—Care for the Whole Person—but this is currently missing from the Latinx students’ experiences.
Despite the lack of cultural engagement at CatholicU, students describe bright spots regarding their cultural engagement. They acknowledged faculty who were generally supportive, with specific regard to the importance of taking coursework and mentorship of Latinx faculty, and of non-Latinx faculty who acknowledged and valued their cultural identities. Students appreciated the community they found in other Latinx students and valued hearing Spanish spoken on the campus. These finding are consistent with previous research on Latinx students in higher education (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005; Nunez, 2009; Contreras, 2016; Raphael, et al., 2003). Also consistent with literature (Raphael et al., 2003) was Latinx students discussion of the importance of both their Catholic and Latinx identities, and the positive impacts of faculty, staff and peers from similar or different backgrounds. Additionally, though students at CatholicU did not find the campus environment culturally engaging they remained enrolled; which is consistent with previous research that distinguishes between student behaviors and their sense of belonging to the institution (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Strayhorn, 2013).
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Perhaps, some of the unique findings associated with this study is related to the manner in which the CECE was used. The CECE model was originally developed to secure student responses on a Likert-type scale survey (Museus, Zhang & Kim; 2016). To gain deeper understanding of student perspective on cultural engagement, the researcher selected one question from each of the nine CECE factors and revised them to allow for descriptive conversation during her focus groups with the students. These responses were then qualitatively coded for themes and findings. As such, the findings of this research study might provide a more rich description of cultural engagement for Latinx students.
Implications
The Latinx community makes up 34% of the Catholic population nationally and 53% of the local diocese where this study was conducted. Therefore, CatholicU must provide an intentional and engaging environment to Latinx students or potentially face diminished enrollment as other universities prioritize Latinx undergraduates. To this end, the researcher recommends that CatholicU minimizes bureaucratic barriers, removes existing obstacles to Latinx cultural engagement, and expands opportunities for a culturally engaging campus environment for Latinx students.
Minimize Bureaucratic Barriers and Meet Basic Student Needs
Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU must have their basic needs as students met before cultural engagement can be addressed. Emphasizing the need for proactive philosophies (Museus et al., 2014), CatholicU must minimize its inefficient bureaucracies and institute student-focused systems of enrollment. Participants expressed frustration with current registration practices including their inability to secure necessary courses, not understanding how to register and the timing of registration. As such, academic departments should monitor student
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demand for courses and minimize course cancellations to help to ensure there are enough seats in the courses students require, at time they want to take them and in the format they need. In addition, the university can provide and communicate priority registration for students who are closest to graduating to support their timely completion. This would also mitigate instances of doubling up in an eight-week term or taking a capstone course before senior year, frustrations shared by participants in this study. Finally, the university should then move away from registration that begins at midnight to a more appropriate time of day.
In addition to registration issues, students expressed challenges with backlogged and unavailable advisors, especially since they were reliant on their academic advisor to know which classes they required. To mitigate these issues, CatholicU could better communicate the curricular expectations for all baccalaureate degrees so students can easily understand the recommended course sequencing necessary for graduation. By providing this information up front, Latinx students, especially adults and traditional-aged commuters, can plan out their courses several terms in advance, to mitigate conflicts with other life priorities, and effectively use their time on campus—potentially minimizing a frustration shared by students. Once the curricular expectations have been better communicated to students, the university can leverage the expertise of academic advisors to provide more holistic student support.
Finally, the university should engage student voices in the development of the onboarding process for students who are new to the university. Participants in this study stated that they would like an onboarding process that provides insight into the academic expectations of CatholicU, such as an introduction to the learning management system, expectations of their chosen classes, and introduction to APA formatting. Further, new student on-boarding should meet basic student needs like teaching them how to register for courses, which books to buy, and
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how to use a collegiate library. Students suggested that onboarding opportunities extend to families to help inform the support systems of Latinx students’ on how best to support their students. This could include workshops on financial literacy, scholarship opportunities, and strategies for parents and spouses to provide emotional support to their students as they transition to college. This information could be provided in English and Spanish and made available on the website for those who want to support their students but are unable to physically visit the campus.
Remove Existing Obstacles and Expand Opportunities that Support a Culturally Engaging Campus Environment
Based on the experiences shared by Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU, the barriers and support strategies related to a culturally engaging campus environment are the opposite sides of the same coin. Students lamented the both dearth of faculty who did not acknowledge their Latinx identity and praised the few instances where this did occur. Characteristics of employees, curricular offerings and co-curricular programming, and creating physical and virtual spaces that honor their Latinx identity are strategies that would benefit students in a culturally responsive manner.
Characteristics of Employees. CatholicU must develop mandatory cultural competency training for faculty, staff, and administrators. Faculty and staff require a foundational knowledge of the CECE (Museus et al., 2016) and a practical understanding of how to foster cultural engagement. Training could also be expanded to include practical strategies that encourage challenging cross-cultural conversations, that do not tokenize or minimize the experience of Latinx students—a desire for such conversations was repeated by participants. Trainings should be mindful of microaggressions (Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000), stereotype threat (Steele,
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2011) and center the experiences of students of color by way of critical race theory in Chicana/o education (Yosso, Villalpando, Delgado Bernal & Solorzano, 2001). Finally, CatholicU cannot neglect the development of student staff, such as resident assistants and tutors who provide direct service to Latinx students, yet require training to better support Latinx student needs.
Additionally, CatholicU should look to increase the representation of Latinx faculty and staff at the university. Latinx faculty comprise only 5.8% of all CatholicU faculty, compared to 18% of the undergraduate student body. However, the impacts of Fr. Mateo and the few other Latinx faculty were incredibly powerful on participants. Though Latinx staff at CatholicU are closer to parity with students at 15.8% of administrators of all levels, only three persons of Latinx heritage are in positions of senior leadership with the authority to create and influence university policy. As managers in senior leadership they are the leaders of divisions with the authority to establish employee expectations for training and behaviors that can better support Latinx students. Increasing the number of Latinx senior leaders could influence the longer-term trajectory of the institution to create more culturally engaging environments for Latinx undergraduates.
Additionally, CatholicU leadership should move beyond statements of inclusion (such as those communicated via emails and editorials in the newspaper) and charge appropriate offices to develop and execute action based on leadership priorities. Various students expressed frustration at a lack of action following statements issued by university leaders. Action following these mandates is important to reinforce messages that currently ring shallow with students. To this end, if legislation is proposed or policy development opportunities are created, CatholicU might engage Latinx students to participate and help craft an appropriate follow-through action.
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Curricular offerings and co-curricular programming. Most students struggled to provide examples of the ways CatholicU helped them to learn about their cultural history and identity. To achieve any relevancy in the future, CatholicU must ensure that the cultural history of Latinx peoples are embedded throughout the curriculum and across all discipline, not simply an add-on related to poetry, as was described by students. For example, business courses could integrate deeper discussions regarding the minimum wage to understand the root causes and effects of the working poor and the demographics associated with poverty. Health and medical career courses could embed knowledge regarding language and cultural aspects of Latinx communities so students have the skills to provide excellent care to clients post-graduation. As Ernesto noted, “just because you’re a different culture doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get great healthcare.” The sequencing of these courses is also important. Though CatholicU does require students to take diversity and social justice courses, these courses should be required early in students’ academic career so they can build on this knowledge as they progress through their degree. As Jaime noted, CatholicU should encourage dominant students to get “comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and not allow dominant students to opt out of challenging classroom discussions—because Latinx students do not have option to opt out of these experiences in their lives. Additionally, as it relates to service learning, faculty require tools to ensure solid preparation and significant debriefing of community service activities, so students recognize the root causes of the need for the service. Latinx students shared concerns of peers exhibiting a white savior or superiority complex when performing service. Should students from dominant communities exhibit a white savior complex, faculty can guide deeper dialog for lasting learning.
Students were uncertain if CatholicU was providing cultural programming or simply failing to communicate this programming. In either case, the end result was the same; students
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did not participate in relevant cultural programming. The university must ensure diverse co-curricular programming exists, is developed with, and is relevant to Latinx students. By working with students, the university will be better able to offer programming that is culturally relevant to Latinx undergraduates. Once these programs are developed, they must be effectively publicized across the campus to all audiences, as this programming is valuable to both Latinx and non-Latinx communities alike. Based on perspectives shared by students, it appears Latinx students would appreciate activities that celebrate their Catholic and Latinx identity, are family-friendly, and support their academic and social needs.
The Catholic identity was the primary reason students reported for choosing to attend CatholicU. This university might consider establishing culturally-relevant traditions that celebrate the intersection of religious and cultural identity. For example offering mass in Spanish and creating a family-friendly annual church festival or bazaar with food, music, games and culture of both traditions. This bazaar can be used to promote relevant student clubs so Latinx students can engage in meaningful ways throughout the year, not simply at one annual event.
This celebration can be a way for Latinx students to meet other students, faculty, and staff with similar interests, and showcase the beauty of Latinx culture to others. Because traditions and celebrations are foundational for culture building, this type of event might address students’ feelings of isolation and help to develop a stronger sense of community.
Latinx students indicated a desire for student clubs and organizations that recognized and celebrated both their Latinx identity and their chosen field of study. These clubs, such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, should have active and culturally appropriate advisors to establish, support programming that extends beyond Hispanic Heritage Month, and create networking opportunities for students to connect across the campus. In addition, Latinx
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students felt a need to support underclass students. The expansion of Latinx student groups could facilitate professional networking opportunities that leverage the expertise and real-world experience upperclass students and alumni to help lowerclass students in understanding how to balance personal and academic obligations and strategies for navigating their chosen profession. Further, these student groups could also leverage strengths, passions, and experience of current undergraduates to support new students in their transition to CatholicU.
Physical and Virtual Spaces. Latinx students who lived on campus had a difficult time developing community, and for those who commuted or took courses in the evening, the ability to connect with others was limited at best. Latinx students would benefit from a “third space” (Gutierrez, 2008) on the campus, specifically designed for them, as many were displaced with the loss of the commuter lounge in a recent remodel. This area should visibly support Latinx students with culturally relevant artwork, music and food. Additionally, this space could possibly help those who take night or summer classes and do not currently have food options available on campus. Student leaders from Unidos could be encouraged to program in this space. This area could facilitate peer mentorship and build off the Latinx value of community, rather than the competitive academic and social environment that currently exists at CatholicU.
Latinx students also described a desire for a virtual space, one go-to location on the website and/or student portal that serves as an academic and social calendar that identifies general campus activities, registration and financial deadlines, and events that are targeted to Latinx students. This website can also identify action following important emails from university leadership by providing updates to strategies, programs and policies that demonstrate follow-through. This website could be promoted on CatholicU social media outlets so currently
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enrolled students, prospective students and community are aware of the actions and events that demonstrate CatholicU’s commitment to Latinx students.
Limitations
While unique and significant findings regarding the cultural engagement of CatholicU were identified by the participants, limitations to the study also existed. This research was performed at a single Catholic university in the southwestern United States and circumstances may differ at other institutions. Further, only undergraduate students who had persisted at CatholicU were interviewed; the researcher does not know the experiences of students who may have stopped out or been forced out, or those who were enrolled at the masters and doctoral levels. Additionally, female participants were the majority of respondents and an increase in male responses might have produced other results. All focus groups were conducted in person, this process did not allow for student responses from those who may have preferred to participate virtually or were unable to physically come to campus, such as those taking online courses out of state. Though students did mention identities other than their Latinx heritage, this protocol did not go into depth on the intersection of other identities such as Latin American origin (such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Guatemalan), gender, race, immigrant status, LGBTQIA, skin color or socioeconomic status. Finally, though students did seem comfortable sharing their stories, and were excited someone from the university was interested in their experiences, it is possible that my position as an administrator at CatholicU may have prevented some students from participating honestly or may have dissuaded non-participants from taking part in the research.
Future Research
While this was a significant step in understanding the experiences of Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU, there are several other areas of potential research. Building
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cultural competency training for faculty and staff at CatholicU is an important and necessary future endeavor. Future research might focus on the impact cultural competence training for faculty and staff has on the experiences of Latinx undergraduates. Additionally, research is needed to further the understanding of Latinx students at other Catholic universities both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, to provide further insight into ways Catholic institutions are collectively serving this important student demographic. Also, outreach to students who have disenrolled from CatholicU or other Catholic universities could provide insight into the circumstances that lead them to depart the university. Because the tuition level at private colleges can be prohibitive, expanding research into the socioeconomic status of Latinx students and the ability of this or other Catholic universities to financially support lower income or undocumented students might also be relevant areas of future research.
Conclusion
Although additional research is necessary to expand on the findings of this study, the narratives provided by Latinx students at CatholicU have provided insight into the cultural engagement of the campus environment. The research determined students do not find CatholicU culturally engaging. However, now that the university is aware of this status, CatholicU can capitalize on what is working for students, eliminate barriers for students, and implement strategies, policies and programs to better support positive outcomes of Latinx students.
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APPENDIX A
Dear Marisa,
Help us make CatholicU a better place by giving your opinion in a research study.
CatholicU is seeking undergraduates to participate in one of six focus groups to provide insight on the campus environment. Our goal is to learn what we are doing well and how to improve our campus for Latinx students. Participation is voluntary, and feedback is confidential. Each focus group will be conducted on the 4th floor of [building] and last approximately ninety minutes. Each participant will receive a $20 Visa gift card upon successful completion of the focus group. Only 30 slots are available, and the researcher is seeking Latinx undergraduates of all ages and majors. Below are the dates of the focus groups, which are open to only 5 students each:
• Thursday, July 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in [building] room 407
• Monday, July 23 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in [building] room 407
• Tuesday, July 24 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in [building] room 407
To reserve your slot and confirm your eligibility, please email researcher Judi Diaz Bonacquisti at email@email.edu with your name, major, year in school, and preferred date of focus group. Judi will email you additional details of the focus group and will send you a consent form to participate. To learn more about the researcher, please visit her Linkedln page at https://www.linkedin.com/in/iudidiazbonacquisti/.
Thank you for your consideration. The information you provide will help CatholicU create a more inclusive campus environment.
Judi A. Diaz Bonacquisti
CatholicU Signature Block
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APPENDIX B
1. Do you work, and if so, how many hours per week do you work, on or off campus?
2. What was the racial make up of your previous institution (high school or community college), and how did that impact your transition to CatholicU?
3. How easy is it for Latinx students to find and interact with people on campus with similar backgrounds? (cultural familiarity)
4. What are ways that CatholicU helps Latinxs to learn about their cultural history and identity? (culturally relevant knowledge)
5. How does CatholicU provide opportunities to help improve the lives of Latinxs, or solve problems in the Latinx Community? (cultural community service)
6. How does CatholicU demonstrate that Latinx students' culture is valued on campus? (cultural validation)
7. How does CatholicU provide enough opportunities to discuss important social issues with people of different cultural backgrounds? (cross cultural engagement)
8. How do faculty and staff demonstrate that they are committed to Latinx student success? (humanized educational environments)
9. Do you believe people on this campus help each other succeed? Why or why not? (collectivist cultural orientation)
10. Do employees at CatholicU send you important information (resources, learning opportunities) or do you have to seek that out? (proactive philosophies)
11. If you have a problem or need information do you know of a person on campus that you can trust to help solve the problem? How did you find that person? (holistic support)
12. What can CatholicU do to improve the campus environment for Latinx students?
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APPENDIX C
Consent form
What this study is about
You are being invited to participate in a focus group to understand your experience as a Latinx undergraduate at CatholicU. This form will provide you with information about the study.
Please read the information below and ask questions about anything you don’t understand before deciding whether or not to take part. You are being asked to be in the study because your responses can help the researcher better understand your campus environment and how to improve it.
Possible risks
Participation in the survey is associated with minimal potential risks, though is it possible you may experience some risk even when the researchers are careful to avoid them. The primary risk associated with the study is the emergence of negative or distress feelings in answering questions. You do not have to answer any question if you do not want to answer them and you may stop participating in the focus group anytime.
Confidentiality
The researcher will make every effort to keep your responses confidential, although absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. No information associated with your name will ever be released publicly the personal identifiable responses may be inspected by University and government organization when required by law.
Participating in the Focus Group
The focus group will include questions about your background, your experiences, and the environment of the campus. It will take about 90 minutes to complete. Your participation is completely voluntary and your feedback is confidential. If you decide to participate now you may change your mind stop at any time and declining participation or not completing the survey will not result in any penalty.
Study cost and compensation
You will not be expected to pay any cost related to study and you will be awarded a $20 Visa gift card upon participation and successful completion of the focus group. If you agree to take part in the study there will be no direct benefit to you. However, the results of this focus group will be used to help the researcher understand how to improve the college experience on this campus. Your honest answers are important to understand how to improve the undergraduate experience for Latinx students. Please help by participating in the focus group.
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Consent to take part in research
• I....................................voluntarily agree to participate in this research study.
• I understand that even if I agree to participate now, I can withdraw at any time or refuse to answer any question without any consequences of any kind.
• I understand that I can withdraw permission to use data from my interview within two weeks after the interview, in which case the material will be deleted.
• I have had the purpose and nature of the study explained to me in writing and I have had the opportunity to ask questions about the study.
• I understand that participation involves answering questions during a 90-minute focus group with other students.
• I understand that I will not benefit directly from participating in this research.
• I agree to my interview being audio and video recorded.
• I understand that all information I provide for this study will be treated confidentially.
• I understand that in any report on the results of this research my identity will remain anonymous. This will be done by changing my name and disguising any details of my interview which may reveal my identity or the identity of people I speak about.
• I understand that disguised extracts from my interview may be quoted in the researcher’s dissertation, and perhaps conference presentations or published papers.
• I understand that if I inform the researcher that myself or someone else is at risk of harm they may have to report this to the relevant authorities - they will discuss this with me first but may be required to report with or without my permission.
• I understand that signed consent forms and original audio and video recordings will be retained in on the researcher’s password protected home computer, with back ups on Drop Box and a zip drive until the exam board confirms the results of her dissertation.
• I understand that a transcript of my interview in which all identifying information has been removed will be retained for two years from the date of the exam board.
• I understand that under freedom of information legalisation I am entitled to access the information I have provided at any time while it is in storage as specified above.
• I understand that I am free to contact any of the people involved in the research to seek further clarification and information.
Judi Diaz Bonacquisti
Doctoral Candidate, University of Colorado at Denver CatholicU Signature Block
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Carlos P. Hipolito-Delgado, Ph.D Associate Professor University of Colorado Denver
School of Education and Human Development (Counseling
303-315-0073 (office)
carlos.hipolito@ucdenver.edu
Signature of research participant
Signature of participant Date
Signature of researcher
I believe the participant is giving informed consent to participate in this study
Signature of researcher Date
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Full Text

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i PERSPECTIVES OF LATIN X UNDERGRADUATES ON THE CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT OF THE CAMPUS ENVIRONMENT AT A CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY by JUDI A. DIAZ BONACQUISTI B.S., Colorado State University, 1992 M.B.A., University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 2003 A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education Leadership for Educational Equity 201 9

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ii © 2019 JUDI A. DIAZ BONACQUISTI ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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iii This dissertation for the Doctor of Education degree by Judi A. Diaz Bonacquisti has been approved for the Leadership for Educational Equity Program b y Margarita Bianco, Chair Carlos Hipolito Delgado, Advisor Elena Sandoval Lucero Date: Ma y 18 , 2019

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iv Diaz Bonacquisti, Judi A. (Ed.D., Leadership for Educational Equity) Perspectives of Latinx U ndergraduates on the C ultural E ngagement of the C a mpus E nvironment at a Catholic U niversity Dissertation directed by Associate Professor Carlos Hipolito Delgado ABSTRACT A culturally engaging college campus environment is thought to increase Latinx students sense of belonging , yet limited research exists examining the relationship between these variables for Latinx students attending Catholic universities. Th is study examine d the perspectives of 21 Latinx undergraduate students attending a private, Catholic university , on the cultural engagement of the campus environment and its impact on their sense of belonging. This study included the perspectives of traditional aged and adult Latinx undergraduates, some of whom had previous college experience. In addition, this research specifically addre ssed the Catholic university setting. Although traditional and adult students had varying life experiences prior to enrolling at CatholicU, their perceptions of th e cultural engagement of the campus environment were consistent in most aspects. Three major themes, bureaucracy, barriers to Latinx cultural engagement, and success strategies for Latinx cultural engagement, produced 16 subthemes in which adults and trad itional students differed in only two areas. T he researcher determined that students do not find the environment of CatholicU culturally engaging . However, now that the university is aware of this status , CatholicU can capitalize on what is working for students, eliminate barriers for students, and implement strategies, policies and programs to better support positive outcomes of Latin x students.

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v Keywords: Latino, Latina, Latinx, Latin@/x , Latin@, unive rsity, college, Catholic, sense of belonging, culturally engaging campus environment , adult, traditional, post traditional, undergraduate , faculty, administrators, staff . The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Carlos Hipolito Delgado

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vi DEDICATION I was blessed to have been born into a family that emphasized the importance of learning and stressed the responsibility to use that knowledge to better our community. I stand on the shoulders of giants: Manuel and Mary Diaz, Frances Romero, Edward Romero, Dav e Diaz, and Lorraine Diaz. Each have supported me importantly and differently as I have grown into the woman I am. None of me exists without all of you. My immediate family drives me to be a better, more compassionate person and I am grateful for their su pport always and especially on this journey. My husband Paul is the calming voice t hat ease s my stress. He led my personal IT department, proofread papers and took the . He is my rock; the grounded foundation on which I am able to rise. My daughter Marisa focuses on her goals , works hard and achieves them . Whether they are academic, athletic or social, s he gets it done and done well with laughter and joy. She reminds me that I can too. My son Vincent , the wr iter in our family with the big heart and wide smile, was the motivation to sit at the keyboard even when I was out of words. With my dual monitors set up in his hospital room as he valiantly battled AML Leukemia , he inspired me to finish this work. He n ever gave up. Neither did I.

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vii ACKNOWLEDEMENTS Delgado believed I could do better and guided me to do so. With her suggestion to include Latinx faculty and stories and feel the importance of Fr. Mateo . All Latinx undergrad students deserve a Fr . Mateo. For more than twelve years, Dr. Elena Sandoval Lucero has encouraged me to pursue a doctorate. As a n equity minded college administrator , she is a role model for both students and staff. I am grateful to know and work with each of you and believe we will create stronger systems and better outcomes for future students.

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viii TABLE OF CONTENTS C HAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 1 a. Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................ 3 b. Definition of Terms ................................ ................................ ............................ 3 II. LITURATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ ........................ 4 a. Latinx in Higher Education ................................ ................................ ................ 4 b. Latinx in Catholic Universities ................................ ................................ .......... 5 c. Latinx Faculty and Staff ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 d. Sense of Belonging ................................ ................................ ............................ 9 i. Theoretical Foundations ................................ ................................ ....... 10 ii. Sense of Belonging and Latinx Students ................................ ............. 12 e. Culturally Engaging Campus Environments ................................ ................... 15 i. Theoretical Perspectives ................................ ................................ ...... 15 ii. Latinx and Culturally Engaging Campus Environments ..................... 16 III. METHODS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 19 a. Purpose of Study ................................ ................................ .............................. 19 b. Case Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 19 c. Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ .................... 20 d. Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 21 e. Setting ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 23 f. Research Questions ................................ ................................ .......................... 24 g. Instruments ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 24

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ix h. Research Procedures ................................ ................................ ........................ 25 i. Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 27 j. Trustworthiness ................................ ................................ ................................ 30 IV. RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 32 a. How C ulturally E ngaging do L atinx U ndergraduate S tudents F ind C athol icU E nvironment? ................................ ................................ ........ 32 i. Bureaucracy ................................ ................................ ........................ 33 b. Hinder the Engagement of Latinx Undergraduate Students? ......................... 37 i. Barriers to Success ................................ ................................ ............... 37 1. ................................ ......................... 38 2. Lack of Community ................................ ................................ . 41 3. Lack of Cultural Competency. Lack of Cura Personalis ......... 4 8 ii. Success Strategies ................................ ................................ ................ 55 1. Faculty ................................ ................................ ...................... 55 2. Cultural Community ................................ ................................ 60 c. Do Traditional Undergraduates and Post Traditional Undergraduates Perceive the Campus Environment Similarly? ................................ ............... 64 V. DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... .67 a. Implications ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 71 i. Minimize Bureaucr atic Barriers and Meet Student Needs .................. 71 ii. Remove Existing Obstacles and Expand Opportunities that Support a Culturally Engaging Campus Environment .................. 73

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x b. Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 78 c. Future Research ................................ ................................ ............................... 78 d. Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 79 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 80 APPENDIX A. Email to Participate ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 84 B. Focus Group Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ 85 C. Consent Form ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 86

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Perspectives of Latinx U ndergraduates on the C ultural E ngagement of the C ampus E nvironment at a Catholic University The population of Latinx s in the United States has grown to become the largest ethnic or racial minority in the nation . Of the more than 57 million Latinx s in the US, only five million , over the age of 25 , , 2017 ). Unfortunately, Latinx s remain the most under educated ethnic group in the United States , with Latinx students completing their baccalaureate degree at a rate that is less than one third of their White counterparts (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). One potential reason for this gap in completion , may be that Latinx s experience less culturally engaging environments and, as a consequence, less sense of belonging at their institutions ( Hurta do & Ponjuan, 2005; Hausman, Schofield & Woods, 2007 ) . Alas, little is known about Latinx s sense of cultural engagement and sense of belonging at Catholic universities . T he findings of this study provide unique insights on Latinx knowledge base . Though the numbers of Catholic universities declined between 1965 and 2014, the enrollme nt of students in these universities has nearly doubled (Contreras, 2016). Catholic universities are poised to play an important role in facilitating Latinx college completion. Given that 34% o f Catholics in the United State s are Latinx , ( Contreras, 2016) Latinx s could become increasingly important to the long term sustainability of Catholic universities. If Catholic universities seek to attract and promote the success of Latinx students , it is crucial for Catholic

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2 universities to develop more culturally engaging campus environments for Latinx student s and foster their sense of belong ing on campus. The climate of the campuses may impact how welcome students feel; a hospitable environment may support student success a nd conversely, a hostile environment may deter students from successfully persisting and graduating , (Hurtado, 1997) . Students who have a sense of belonging on the college campus are more likely to remain than those students who have no connection to the institution (Hurtado & Ponjuan, 2005; Hausman, Schofield & Woods, 2007). Many consider the student integration theo ries developed by Tinto (1975) as foundational, and others have criticized it for its lack of representation regarding the experiences of students of color and other traditionally underrepresented student populations (Tierney, 1992; Nuñez, 2009; Hurtado & Carter, 1997). This gap in the research has opened the possibility for the creation of new model that appreciates and validates the experiences of underrepresented students on college campuses to determine how the climate of the campus impacts their sense of belonging and their intention to stay. Dr. Samuel Museus developed the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Scale to measure nine elements of college environments that foster success among diverse populations ( Museus , Zhang & Kim, 2014). Us e of the CECE may help universities understand the cultural engagement of the campus environment, and in turn develop strategies to help Latinx students develop a sense of belonging . Th e purpose of this study was to understand to what degree Latinx undergraduate students at a private, doctoral granting Catholic university regard their campus as being culturally engaging. This dissertation research project use d a case study methodology and a series of focus groups to gain students perspectives on which elements of their campus they found most engaging as well as those that may be barriers or deterrents. By understanding how

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3 the campus environment supports or dissuades the sense of belonging of Latinx students, the university (dubbed CatholicU ) can implement strategies, policies and programs to better support the sense of belonging of Latinx students. Research Questions 1. How culturally engaging do Latinx undergraduate students find CatholicU environment? 2. What are elements of CatholicU environment that support or hinder the engagement of Latinx undergraduate students? 3. Do traditional undergraduates and post traditional undergraduates perceive the campus environment similarly? Definition of Terms Latinx : The author is using the emerging gender neutral term Latinx and this term is intended to be inclusive of all students of Latino origin. The author will use Latinx throughout this paper, unless a direct quote is used , and in that case , the paper will reflect original term used by the author or participant . Sense of Belonging: the degree to which a student feels a sense of connection to their , Carter, 1997, p. 328) .

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4 CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW Latin x s in Higher Education The Latin x population in the United States is experiencing unprecedented population growth, at the same time it is earning the distinction as the most undereducated population in the United States (Gandara, & Contreras, 2009). This leaky educational pipeline stretc hes from K 12 through higher education and has created an educational parity issue when compared to their White counterparts. In 2014 2015 the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) of US public high school students was 83%, with an 88% ACGR for White stu dents but only 78% for Latinx s, (National Center Education Statistics (NCES), 2017). The high school graduation gap in Colorado was more pronounced, with an 83% ACGR for White high school graduates, but only 68% ACGR for Latinx s, (NCES, 2017). For those who do graduate high school, many choose to begin their undergraduate education at community colleges, and more than half of all Latinx students enrolled in higher education across the nation enroll at community colleges (de los Santos & de los Santos, 200 6). In the fall of 2011, 99,974 Latinx s enrolled at a public two year college, but only 12.7% of Latinx s had earned a bachelors degree six years later, including those students who earned a two year degree and those who transferred prior to earning a cred ential ( Shapiro, Dundar, Huie, Wakhungu, Yuan, Nathan, & Bhimdiwali, 2017). Though community colleges have contributed to more students entering college, the completion rates remain low (Shapiro, et al, 2017). More Latinx s are accessing higher educati on than they were 35 years ago, but the growth in college attendance has not kept pace with the ir population growth . This dynamic has widened the college enrollment gap between Latinx s and White students (Askenas, Park, &

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5 Pearce, 2017). Additionally, Latinx s the rate of W hite students (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). The six year graduation rate for Latinx s who entered four year colleges in the fall of 2008 was 54% compared to 63% for White students (NCES, 2017). Within Colorado 32 % W hite students had earned at least one postsecondary credential after four years compared to 20.9% of Latinx students (Garcia, 2016) a s a result, Colorado has the second largest achievement gap in the country . According to Colorado Competes, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education Master Plan, performs far better for white students than it does for Hispanics (2012, p. 5). Nationally, the type of institution at which Latinx students e nrolled produced another notable gap. Fifty two percent of Latinx s graduated from public four year institutions , compared to 61% at private, non profit, four year colleges (NCES, 2017). While t he Latinx population and college enrollment has grown in the United States, Latinx degree completion has stagnated, and degree completion rates lag behind those of their White contemporaries (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). The institution type, whether two year, four year, public, or private has a role to play in Lat inx student completion. Although it is generally known that a positive perception of a culturally engaging campus impacts Latinx sense of belonging and increases their success ( Hurtado, Alvarez, Guillermo Wann, Cuellar, Arellano, 2012; Museus, 2014) , little is known about the relationship of culturally engaging campuses and sense of belonging in Catholic universities specifically . Latinx Enrollment at Catholic Universities Private and Catholic Universities are not required to make institutional data as readily available as public universities; therefore, it can be challenging to find exact indicators . While the number of Catholic universities in the United States dropped from 305 to 225 between 1965

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6 and 2014, the enrollment of students nearly doubled (Contreras, 2016). What is unclear, however, is the change in enrollment of Latinx students at Catholic universities during this period. The K 12 Catholic sector also experienced changes during these years, with elementary level enrollment declining by nearly half, and secondary school enrollment remaining relatively flat. The outcomes at the secondary level prove important; in 2010 2011, Catholic schools graduated 147,577 students (of any race), with 85.7% of them enrolling directly into a four year co llege the following fall (Contreras, 2016) . Contreras (2016) leveraged available secondary data from the 2007 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to compile a picture of the enrollment and completion status of Latinx s attending ninetee n research/doctoral granting Catholic universities. Of these nineteen universities, twelve had a student population that was less than 10% Latinx , five universities had student populations that were between 10% and 15% Latinx , and only two universities a student body that was greater than 15% Latinx . Specifically, Barry University had a student body that was 30% Latinx , and Saint Thomas University's enrollment was 55.8% Latinx , which qualifies each for federal designation as a n Hispanic Serving Institution . Graduation rates of Latinx students at these nineteen universities varied widely. Four universities graduated less than 40% of Latinx students in six years, and ten universities graduated between 50% and 69% of Latinx s wit hin a six year time frame. This compares to a national six year completion rate of 54% (NCES, 2017). Only four of the nineteen Catholic universities demonstrated six year completion rates above 70% for Latinx s tudents of Minnesota 80%, Bosto n College 84.3%, University of Notre Dame 91.2%, and Georgetown University 91.5%. While the graduation rate at each of these colleges is impressive, none had a

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7 student body that was greater than 10% Latinx , contributing a small number of Latinx graduates (Contreras, 2016). Numerical data is not the only piece of the Latinx experience that is hidden within Catholic Universities; so are the perceptions of their experience s . Latinx and White students at Notre Dame were interviewed by Raphael, Pressley and Ka ne (2003) on their views of the campus environment, and its impact on the students. Latinx students, in general, had a positive experience at the campus, but did experience challenges not identified by their White counterparts, including experiencing chal lenges with separation from family and negative stereotyping by other students. W hile their study did not explicitly identify the impact of the sense of belonging to Notre Dame, one can find aspects of each embedded within the student responses. The family like environment, interactions with peers from the same and different cultural backgrounds , and interactions with faculty and staff were important in Latinx unive rsity . However , feelings of discrimination were stronger for Latinx students than W hite students and had negative impacts on some Latinx student desire to re main at the u niversity . One important aspect that was evident for Latinx students was the impac t of Catholicism and their decision to choose and remain at Notre Dame . The religious aspect supported them spiritually and was also social; masses held in Spanish and retreats that focused on Latinx students helped them to d evelop a sense of family on th e campus and encourage d them to stay , in ways that were not as evident for White students (Raphael, et al, 2003). Contreras (2016) data focused on Latinx students who transitioned to a Catholic university directly from high school, as did the interviews co nducted by Raphael, et al (2003). The enrollment and success rates of adult Latinx undergraduate learners, w he ther as first time

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8 students or as transfers from a community college, is unclear. The recommendations of the Contreras (2016) study note the need to establish a national data center on Catholic colleges and universities as well as encouraging individual institutions to collect coll ege enrollment and completion data by race and ethnicity. In addition, she asserts the need for qualitative research to better understand why Latinx students lag White students in college completion . This type of analysis would provide a clearer picture of the experiences of Latinx students on Catholic campuses, potentially leading to policy recommendations that would better support degree completion across ethnic groups . In an effort to support their collegiate success, this project investigate d the per ceptions of Latinx undergraduates of the cultural engagement of the campus environment at CatholicU , and its impact on their sense of belonging. Latinx Faculty and Staff Latinx professionals, whether as faculty or as administrators, impact undergraduate students and the university environment in important ways. For example, faculty of color engage students differently than their white faculty counterparts. According to Umbach (2006), Latinx faculty utilize diversity in their classroom instruction through class discussions or written assignments that include diverse perspectives, and students are more likely to have serious conversations within their courses with students of a d ifferent race or ethnicity. Faculty of color utilize active and collaborative learning techniques with greater frequency than White faculty, and faculty at private colleges use these same techniques more often than faculty at public institutions. Further more, the greater the diversity of faculty on campus, the higher the levels of faculty involvement, suggesting that greater structural diversity leads to an increased use of effective educational practices (Umbach, 2006) . In addition to the impact Latinx professionals exhibit in the classroom, the role of Latinx administrators is also valuable.

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9 According to Sedlacek and Fuertes (1993) Latinx administrators serve as mentors to Latin x faculty and encourage them to enter administration. These administrative roles are critical in policy development, budget allocation and hiring decisions, which can have lasting and systemic implications for college campuses and students. However, when Santos and Acevedo Gil (2013) reviewed the enrollments of Latinx students and compared against the representation of Latinx faculty and administration in California, they found that the California State University system had lost ground in the numbers of f aculty and administrators. This setback had serious implications for the swiftly growing Latinx student enrollment in the CSU (p. 196). Even with the known pos itive impacts that Latinx faculty and staff can bring to a campus community, the ir numbers are quite small. During the fall of 2015, only 3% of all faculty across the United State s (including tenure track and instructors/lecturers) self identified as Hisp anic males, and 2% as Hispanic females, compared to 41% White males and 35% White females (NCES, 2017). Data on administrators is not available from NCES. As the demographics of Latinx undergraduates continue to trend upward, colleges and universities may be well suited to ensure the composition of their faculty and staff are poised to effectively and comprehensively serve the needs of their students. Sense of Belonging Sense of belongi ng is a basic human need; Maslow (1943) included social belonging on the third level of his hierarchy of needs behind only physiological needs such as air, food and water, and safety needs such as personal security and financial well being. Those who do n ot develop a sense of belonging risk loneliness or ostracism. In the context of higher education,

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10 sense of belonging entails the degree to which a student feels a sense of connection to their Carter, 1997, p. 328). Tinto (1970, 1993) theorized students who fully assimilated into the collegiate environment were more committed and more likely to graduate. Later, Tierney (1992) and Hurtado (1992), challenged these vi ews, believing the environment of college whether it was welcoming or hostile, for example sense of belonging and remain committed to graduating from that institution. Theoretical Foundations Vincen t Tinto is acknowledged for his foundational work that reviewed the behavioral characteristics of students who leave college and the attributes of students who persist. Tinto (1975) theorized that the lack of student integration into the college environme nt was due to their focused on the behaviors and actions of college students, such as the frequency of their interactions with faculty members and level of engag ement on campus and theorized that increased campus engagement would contribute to the success of undergraduate students. He believed that fully integrating into the academic environment was critical to student success ally as well as socially dissociate themselves from the community, students were more likely to leave the institution. This implie d the need for students to assimilate to the collegiate environment, rather than the institution being responsible for theories are foundational in higher educational literature, as many scholars have built their view

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11 of modern campus life on his theories of acclimation to college. However, his claims are not without criticism. Tierney (1992) challenged the assumptions of integration for students from nonmainstream (non White) backgrounds and asserted that overlooking the precollegiate background of students of color held significant negative consequences for racial and ethnic minorities. Unlike White students, underrepresented students are expected to transition aw ay from their cultural upbringing in addition to learning the campus expectations of the collegiate environment (Tierney, 1992). Tierney conducted case studies at ten Predominantly White Institutions (PWI) and interviewed more than 200 campus administrator s. Two significant themes emerged from his interviews, one regarding acculturation of the students, and the other regarding who would resolve the acculturation issue, and how this problem would be effectively addressed. Though his examples focus on the t ransition of Native American students to PWI, the outcomes are transferable to students from other racial and ethnic groups, especially those with strong cultural and familial ties like Latinx students . Tierney (1992) found that c ampus leadership identifie d that the college transition challenges of Native Americans were due to the students maintaining roots and connections with their home culture. Rather than viewing their home culture as an asset and something on which the college could build to help stud ents transition to this new environment, administrators blamed the retention of the home culture as the reason for Native American students' inability to fully succeed on the collegiate landscape. This mainstream view problematized the students, and not t he institution. Other deficit views were also evident. Administrators perceived the lack of competition within Native culture as a concern for acculturation to the campus environment, rather than acknowledge the competitive environment of university as a n atmosphere de void of cooperation and support . By recognizing

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12 that students from other non dominant cultures would experience similar cultural and academic acculturation issues as they transition to the university environment, colleges would be well suit ed to have designated efforts to support the tran sition of students of color (Tierney, 1992 ). Sense of Belonging and Latinx Students college campus and their behavio rs on the campus. Their study relied on the Sense of Belonging Scales as developed by Bollen and Hoyle (1990) and adapted the scales to study Latinx sense of social cohesion in a collegiate environment. They reference the work of Spady (1970) and show correlations in persistence based on the amount and quality of engagement of students in an academic and social environment, Spady focused on the ps ychological perceptions of a sense of integration of students as they transitioned to their environments. Hurtado and Carter asserted that this sense of integration can be perceived differently between those who have been historically disenfranchised in h igher education than those for whom the system was created. This indicates that students of color may actively participate in college normative activities, but may do so without a feeling of membership, or belonging, in that participation. The college en vironment may have more to do with the success of Latinx students transition to college than their background characteristics. Latinx s who attended colleges with higher selectivity experienced more difficulty in their transition. Latinx students who tra nsitioned easily their first year found the campus to be less hostile their second year. The perceptions of a hostile campus Latinx students are less likely to feel p art of the campus community if they perceive racial tension or

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13 Hurtado and Panjuan (2005) researched the impacts of sense of belonging and social cohesion of Latinx s at ten public, residential universities. With the exception of speaking Spanish at home, the background characteristics of Latinx s did not play a role in their sense of belonging, demonstrating that the campus environment and how Latinx s feel about that e nvironment more directly impacted students. Informal activities such as interacting with diverse peers, and formal, university designed programs such as academic support programs, influenced students to score higher on the sense of belonging index. Conve rsely, Latinx s who felt the campus environment did not support diversity reported a significantly lower sense of belonging. Enrolling into a diversity course had an indirect effect on students by providing knowledge and the opportunity to engage in positi ve interactions with diverse peers. Nuñez (2009) leveraged quantitative data from the Diverse Democracy Project Study to research Latinx student perceptions of campus climate, diversity related experiences, and racial/ethnic stereotyping on their sense o f belonging in college. This longitudinal study surveyed first year students enrolled during the fall of 2001 at nine public, four year universities, and followed them through their second year with the stated purpose of understanding the characteristics and experiences related to campus climate that are associated with second year Latinx perceived the campus as hostile to diversity would have diminished sense of belonging. P ositive cross affected a positive sense of belonging . W hile particip ation in community service activities, frequency of class participation and taking a diversity curriculum indirectly supported a sense of belonging. Perceptions of a hostile climate, status as a second generation immigrant, and

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14 working a job in addition t o going to college negatively influenced sense of belonging. Her work also identified a paradox in the variables. Taking a diversity curriculum, engaging in community service, and frequency of class participation all contribute to sense of belonging, but also predicted the perception of a hostile campus environment. It would appear that Latinx students who feel more engaged with the campus also perceive that climate to be exclusionary. It may be that by actively participating in academic discussions and developing social relationships on and off the campus, Latinx student s increase their social consciousness and become critical of the environment. Confirming the work of Hurtado and Carter (1997) , Strayhorn (2013) stresse d that sense of belonging is different than satisfaction or involvement. His theories focus ed on Latinx on the campus. Through quantitative analysis of survey responses to the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ), he determined that Latinx students at PWIs had a lower sense of belonging than their White peers, and that academic and social struggles may hinder a sense of belonging on the campus. The findings of these researchers identify the challenges with traditional interpretations of social integration which value connections to the university over home and other support communities that are important to Latin x students. Additionally, these interpretations do not address the social isolation and racism students of color perceive or experience as they transition to the collegiate environment. By focusing on the students, rather than the institutions, administr ators have missed critical indicators in ways their sphere of influence could provide a better environment for the students they a re enrolling. Further, the existing literature has yet to examine the experiences of Latinx students at Catholic universities. Th e findings of this study

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15 pro vide unique insight into the ways in which CatholicU can influence the cultural environment of its campus and promote Latinx student sense of belonging. Culturally Engaging Campus Environments The limitations in the theoreti cal frameworks and assessment tools of the past have increased the need for new theoretical perspectives on the racial and cultural realties faced by students of color on college campuses. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Hurtado et. al (2012) and Museus (2014) developed new theoretical framework s explaining culturally engaging campus environments. Theoretical Perspectives With a focus on the impacts of both the curricular and co curricular environment on the education of the whole student, the Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) model investigates the five dimensions of campus climate: historical, compositional, organizational, psychological and behavioral (Hurtado, et al, 2012). These internal and external influences shape the dynamics of the institut ion and affect the relationships and interactions of faculty, students, and staff. Each of these forces are interrelated and theorized to affect individual student success outcomes, including persistence and degree attainment. When these outcomes are sup portive of students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education, these DLEs can create conditions to support social transformation for a just society, (Hurtado, et al, 2012) Addressing the criticisms of Tinto , the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) model of success theorizes that external influences, such as family and finances, combined with precollege characteristics of students (race, age, etc.), and the environment of the campus all influence student experienc es and outcomes in college (Museus,

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16 2014). T he collegiate environment shapes positive individual factors of students, such as their sense of belonging and academic disposition and performance, which ultimately impacts the success of racial and ethnically diverse students in college. The focus of the model is to determine the degree to which a culturally engaging campus environment exists at a college or university and is positively associated with supporting individual student factors that lead to their s uccess, specifically an increased likelihood of college persistence and degree completion. The CECE model hypothesizes that nine factors of culturally engaging campus environments exist: cultural familiarity, culturally relevant knowledge, cultural commun ity service, opportunities for meaningful cross cultural engagement, collectivist cultural orientations, culturally validating environments, humanized educational environments, proactive philosophies, and availability of holistic support. These factors en identities, reflect their diverse needs as they navigate their respective institutions, and facilitate their success in college. The individual influences are sense of belonging, academic disposition s, and academic performance , (Museus & Yi, 2017) . It is important to note that the CECE model was developed intentionally to explain environmental factors and impacts across racial populations, including both White students and students of color , ( Museus, Zhang, & Kim, 2016). Latinx s and Culturally Engaging Campus Environments Hurtado (1992) reviewed forces both inside and outside the campus environment and their impact on Latinx university campuses of Black, White, and Chicano students, with most undergraduat es feeling that racial discrimination was a problem in this country. Across all categories of institutions,

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17 students perceived lower racial tensions at colleges that exhibited high student centered priorities and those with an institutional commitment to diversity. However, student perceptions of campus race relations varied by institution type, with higher perceptions of racial tension at selective institutions and better overall race relations at private universities than public universities. Catholic universities fared particularly well with only 12% of students reporting racial conflict, 16% noting mistrust between minority groups and administrators, and 82% reporting good communication among ethnic groups. This study set the stage to investigate the ways students perceive the general campus environment, and its ability to enhance or harm the experiences for diverse students. In her follow up study Hurtado (1994) noted that nearly one third of Hispanic students felt as if they did not fit in on thei r campus, even though they had strong academic test scores and high school grades. Sixty eight percent of Latinx college students reported that they felt that other students knew very little about their culture, which was associated with perceptions of ra cial tension and discrimination. Thus, how students feel about their campus environment is impacting how accepted the students feel by that campus. Museus, Nichols, & Lambert, (2008 ) developed models to test the impact of campus sion to depart or persist. While the responses were different across different racial and ethnic categories, including Asian, White, Black and Latinx , the campus racial climate exhibited indirect effects on student retention and completion through academi c involvement, social involvement and intuitional commitment. Black students were the least satisfied with their campus racial environments, but Asian and Latinx students were only slightly more content. For Latinx students, social involvement had a pos itive indirect influence on their perceptions of the racial climate, supporting their completion. It is interesting to note, however,

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18 that the higher the level of satisfaction that Latinx s had with the racial climate of the campus, the lower their level o f social involvement, yet this did not deter their degree outcomes, (Museus et al, 2008). Campus environments and the perceptions of those environments have direct and indirect effects on the levels of connectedness students have with the institution. If Latinx s tudents perceive the campus as indifferent, racist or otherwise hostile to their culture, students experienced a diminished sense of belonging, and did not feel that they fit at the college. However, when colleges were student focused and demonstrated a commitme nt to diversity, Latinx students felt accepted and connected (Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005 ; Nuñez, 2009 ). While the literature is promising, information on sense of belonging of Latinx students at Catholic universities, and the cultural engagement of the Catho lic environment, is lacking.

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19 CHAPTER III METHOD S Purpose of The Study The purpose of this study was to understand to what degree Latinx undergraduate students at a private, doctoral granting Catholic university regard ed their campus as being culturally engaging. This dissertation research project used a case study methodology and a most engaging as well as those that are barriers or deterrents. By understanding how the campus environment supports or dissuades the sense of belonging of Latinx students, the university (dubbed Catholic U) can implement strategies, policies and programs to better support the sense of belonging of Latinx students. Case Study Case study represents one of the five major qualitative research traditions described by Creswell and Poth (2016). Case studies are bound by time and activity, contain detailed information from a variety of data sources over a specified period of time (Creswell & Creswell, 2017), and investigate a contemporary phenomenon in a real world context (Yin, 2003). Different from the study of historical events, case studies often employ evidence not available to historians: direct observations and in terviews of the people involved with the events (Yin, 2017). Additionally, case study methodology can be used to explore a unique case that requires more detailed investigation (Yin, 20 09 ) . This research study was well served by case study methodology, a s the results were confined to the responses and perceptions of Latin x undergraduates who ha d completed at least one semester of college and were currently enrolled

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20 at CatholicU. A s has been previously noted, there is limited understanding of how Latin x s tudents experience the cultural environment of Catholic universities. Theoretical Framework Early higher education researchers theorized that students who assimilated into the ir environment of their college were more committed and more likely to graduate (Tinto, 1970; 1993). Other researchers have since challenged this view, believing that the environment of the campus itself, whe ther welcoming or hostile, for example , h ability to develop a sense of belonging and remain committed to graduating from that institution (Tierney , 1992; Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Museus, 2014). This case study was guided by the nine themes of the CECE hypothesized by Museus, Zhang and Kim (2016) to increase Latinx a college campus and describe institutional environments thought to support student success. The creators of the CECE believe d that there wa s a need for communities, and identities of diverse populations, and our research suggest that the CECE scale p. 788 ). The nine components of culturally engaging campus environments can be separated into two categories: cultural relevance and cultural responsivene ss (Museus, Yi & Saelua, 2017). Cultural relevance cultural backgrounds and identities, and contains five components. Cultural familiarity relates to the extent that students connect with peers and others who understand their backgrounds and experiences. Culturally relevant knowledge knowledge about their own background. Cultural community service describes the opportunities

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21 for students to engage in activities that spread awa reness or help solve problems related to their cultural communities. Meaningful cross cultural engagement is the availability to participate in discussions on important social and political problems with diverse peers. Finally, culturally validating envi ronments describes student perceptions of the extent the campus values their cultural background, knowledge and identities. Cultural responsiveness describes the effectiveness of the campus to respond to the needs of culturally diverse populations and encompasses four indicators. Collectivist cultural orientation focusses on teamwork rather than individualism and competition. Humanized educational environment s describes the extent that the colleges care about and establish meaningful relationships with students. Proactive philosophies are those that provide support to students that is more significant than relaying information. Finally, holistic support is t he availability of at least one trusted faculty or staff member that a student can engage for assistance, regardless of what the issue may be. Th is researcher modified questions from the 39 question, Likert based CECE survey tool, and conduct ed focus group s of Latinx undergraduates of CatholicU . The CECE theoretical framework guided the analysis of results yielded from participants. Participants CatholicU enroll s nearly 5200 undergraduates including more than 900 Latinx students ( 18% of the student body ) . Approximately 58% of undergraduates identify as women and 42% identify as men , with an average age of 35 for women and 31 for men. The sample consist ed of self identified Latinx undergraduates who were at least 18 years old, had completed at least one class at CatholicU and were eligible to enroll as undergraduates, meaning they had

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22 not graduated and did not have holds that prevented registration such as disciplinary, academic suspension or collections. CatholicU application for admissions and their information w as retrieved from Colleague, the campus Student Information System (SIS). The author emailed eligible students to solicit participation , and asked student advocates from across the campus to enco urage participation. While she had received initial support from t he Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion to find students, neither position successful secured students to participate in focus groups. Tradi tional undergraduates at CatholicU take 16 week courses and often live on campus. Students in p ost traditional programs take 8 week accelerated courses and generally do not live on campus. Post traditional students are often transfers or adults, while th e traditional students arrive at CatholicU directly from high school. An average of 119 traditional Latinx freshmen have entered CatholicU each of the last four years, which is less than half the White student average of 259. The first year retention rat e of traditional Latinx s tudents is 79.61% compared to 81.35% for White students. Data on post traditional students is not collected at CatholicU. Because there are differences in the academic offerings and social integration opportunities associated wi th these courses of study, students who are enrolled in both traditional undergraduate and post traditional undergraduate programs were purposely targeted for participation. The author emailed students directly, used social media to encourage student part icipation and solicited support from various champions on campus . She emailed 605 students in post traditional undergraduate programs in all colleges who were listed in the SIS as Hispanic, were at least 18 years old, had completed at least one class, who had not graduated and

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23 did not have disciplinary, academic suspe nsion or collection holds that would prevent registration. In addition, the researcher emailed 469 traditional undergraduates in all colleges who were listed as Hispanic, were at least 18 years old, had not graduated and did not have disciplinary, academi c suspension or collections holds on their accounts. In addition to sending targeted emails, the author posted about her study on her Facebook page and asked her followers to connect her to potential participants at the university. She also asked academi c advisors and student leaders to promote participation. In total, nine focus groups with 21 students were conducted between June and September 2018; 15 traditional students attended five focus groups, and six adults attended four focus groups. P articipa nts ranged from 18 to 49 years of age. Eighteen women participated and three men provided feedback. Table I Focus Group Participants Traditional Aged Latinx Undergraduates Adult Latinx Undergraduates Female 13 5 Male 2 1 Total 15 6 Setting CatholicU is located in a major southwestern city of the United States with a metropolitan area population of more than three million people . Lati n x men and women are more than 50% of the Catholic population of local diocese. Offering undergraduate, mast ers and doctoral degrees, the university enrolls approximately 10,000 students and draws students from both the city and out of state. Most traditional aged students live on campus in residence halls for their first two years and take face to face courses , while most post traditional students commute to campus in

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24 the evenings or take online or hybrid coursework. With a focus on serving society, the mission of CatholicU is Men and Women in the Service of Others. CatholicU employs a total of 1,782 faculty o f all ranks, including 54 Latinx women (3%) and 50 Latinx men (2.8%), compared to 789 White women (44%) and 418 White men (23.4). Of 698 staff and administrative positions on the campus, 76 are Latinx women (10.8%), 36 are Latinx men (5%), 352 are White w omen (50.4%) and 175 are White men (25%). Of 28 senior leadership positions at the university, including the ranks of Vice President, Associate Vice President, and Dean, 3 leaders are Latinx , 1 is African American and 24 are White (85.6%). Research Ques tions 1. How culturally engaging do Latinx undergraduate students find the CatholicU environment? 2. What are the elements to CatholicU of Latinx undergraduate students? 3. Do traditional undergraduates and post traditional undergraduates perceive the campus environment similarly? Instruments Demographic Questionnaire Though the focus groups were confidential, participants were not anonymous. Students in each focus group saw the other participants and heard their responses. The author secured demographic information from the SIS including gender, major, year in school and birth year. However, not all information was available in the SIS including if and when students wor ked. Focus Group Protocol

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25 The focus group protocol consisted of an introduction, open ended questions that were modified from the Culturally Engaging Campus Environment (CECE) survey (Museus, Zhang & Kim; 2016), and three additional questions. The researcher began each session describing the responsibilities to engage proper authorities should any student disclose information related to Title IX infract ions. To supplement the university known data, two questions were asked immediately following the introduction by the researcher: Do you work, and if so where and how many hours per week do you work? What was the racial make of your previous institution (high school or community college), and how did that impact your transition to CatholicU ? These introductory questions were then followed by nine questions that were modified from the CECE survey (Museus, Zhang & Kim; 2016). These nine open ended questi ons allowed students to describe their perceptions of the campus environment in depth and how it has supported or hindered their feelings of belonging to CatholicU . Sample questions include: How does CatholicU demonstrate that Latinx students' culture is valued on campus, and does CatholicU provide enough opportunities to discuss important social issues with people of different cultural backgrounds? The last question of each focus group was What can CatholicU do to improve the campus environment for Latin x students? A full version of the protocol can be found in Appendix B. Research Procedures With the assistance of technical personnel, the author emailed Latinx undergraduates who had completed at least one class, had no registration holds, and did not owe the university money to both describe the study and to solicit participation in focus groups (see Appendix A). The email addressed each student by first name , appeared to come directly from the researcher, and

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26 offered three dates and times for focus groups, which were appropriately targeted to either traditional or nontraditional students. Each student was asked to indicate their interest to participate by re plying to the email with their name, major, and preferred date of focus group. Traditional and post traditional undergraduates were purposefully sampled to gain varying perspectives from a range of ages, housing options, and academic programs, and focus g roups were separated into traditional and post traditional students. Once the researcher confirmed traditional student, she emailed confirmation to participate and sent a consent form ( Appendix C). She sent a reminder email to each participant the day before the focus group. The researcher intended to conduct a total of six focus group over the summer of 2018, three for traditional students and three for post traditional students eac h consisting of 5 6 students with a target of 15 traditional and 15 post traditional students. However, few students were present on campus during the summer and the researcher extended the participation time frame until after the start of the fall 2018 s emester. A second email to eligible participants that excluded those who had already participated was sent in August 2018. The researcher completed nine focus groups of 15 traditional and 6 post traditional students through September 2018. Fo cus groups were conducted in English and held on campus during the summer and fall of 2018. Each session lasted an average of 75 minutes, and each participant received a $20 Visa gift card at the completion of the focus group. Each focus group was audio and video recorded on an iPad with a Shure MV88 microphone, with a Sony air gapped digital recorder used as a backup. The audio was uploaded to Temi, an online transcription application service for initial transcription support, and the researcher verified, transfe rred and transcribed each session into Word. She reviewed the video

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27 file while reading the Word transcriptions to ensure proper response attribution of participants. Transcriptions identified participants by pseudonym , and a separate Excel document conta ined the names and demographic information of participants. All documents were stored on the protected home computer, were backed up in Dropbox, and were stored on her work computer in her office at CatholicU. The audio and video fi les will be deleted once the author has successfully defended her dissertation. No intentional follow up concerning the focus groups occurred with the students, though the researcher did email students on issues regarding enrollment and financial aid as a responsibility of her position at the university. In addition, she mingled with students at various campus events, again in relation to her capacity as campus administrator. Data Analysis The nine questions that were modified from the 39 question CECE were intentionally chosen to represent the nine indicators of a culturally engaging campus environment. Rather than using a Likert scale to capture responses as intended by the CECE, the rese archer modified propositions stemming from how and why questions can be extremely useful in guiding case ogy and leveraging the theoretical frameworks of sense of belonging and culturally engaging campus environments, the researcher attempted to capture common experiences of Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU by analyzing student response data through a codin g process to determine emerging themes from the respondents. After the focus groups were conducted, digitally recorded, and transcribed, the text was input into Dedoose, an online qualitative data analysis software program. The author analyzed

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28 each line of data in Dedoose for codes, words or short phrases that encapsulated the essence of the perceptions of the respondents ( Salda ñ a , 2016). In addition, the researcher transcribed her field notes and journal entries as additional sources of evidence to inc rease the strength of the case study (Yin, 2009). Codes and themes were determined by the author and informed by the theoretical framework. Each of the initial codes and emergent themes were reviewed among and across each focus group and across participa nts. Because three additional questions that are not related to the CECE were asked (regarding their previous educational experience, hours worked, and ideas to improve the campus), it was anticipated that students would provide responses not related to c ultural environment, but still important to their education. The lack of course availability, for instance , could be such an example responses were also coded for themes and analyzed as issues negatively impacting or supporting Latinx students. Sp ecial attention was paid to similarities and differences in codes between traditional students and post traditional students. Any codes that eventually seemed irrelevant were discarded. To answer the research questions, codes were divided into three initial categories: strategies that support Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU, responses that identify barriers to Latinx students at CatholicU, and feelings or perceptions about the environm ent at CatholicU. O nce data had been separated into these three initial categories, responses were clustered together based on the emergence of patterns for the development of codes and ultimately themes ( Salda ñ a , 2016). Thirty seven codes were originally identified within the b arriers category , examples included action, advising, activities/events, bureaucracy, commuters, competition, competing priorities, cost, courses limited, course sequencing, culture shock, communication,

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29 community, curriculum, DACA, faculty (training), housing, MAGA, no intentionality, parents/family support, Spanish language barrier, registration, representation, stereotype reinforcement, superiority, skin privilege, student support services, transition, and white savior. The code of b ureaucracy grew to include items such as registration, course sequencing, transition/onboarding, advising and buying books. The code of e mails without action focused primarily on issues surrounding DACA and action. Faculty bias became the umbrella the me for faculty (training), representation, curriculum and white savior. Lack of community grew to encompass areas such as alone, competition, commuters and housing. Lack of relatable staff was the overarching theme for student support services, activitie s/events, representation and stereotype reinforcement. Some themes did not resonate across or among focus groups, such as competing priorities and cost, and were ultimately dropped from the barriers category. The success strategies category i nitially i ncl uded 39 codes, for example : adult camaraderie, bilingual campus , Catholic, co curricular programming, community of other Latinx, curriculum, emails, faculty representation, Fr. Mateo, Jesuit, learning commons, non Latinx faculty, open minded, other POC, pr esidential emails, service learning, scholarship, similar cultural experiences, Spanish, staff support, student group, Unidos, and work study . The code of general support of faculty became an overarching theme and ultimately comprised the codes such as flexibly and general support. The code of Latinx faculty came to include the codes of Father Mateo and Spanish professors , while supportive non Latinx faculty became the umbrella theme for codes such as open minded, welcoming and teacher ed. Unidos remained its own code, as did Spanish. Items that did not resonate across and among focus groups, such as artwork and bilingual campus were eventually removed from the success category.

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30 The final category, perceptions of the campus, was ultimatel y deemed not worthy of its own category, because of the way students identified their feelings about campus as either barriers or success strategies. For example, a student shared that she felt that she did not fit in with other students on the campus. Th ough this was indeed her feeling, this example was ultimately coded into the alone/isolation theme under the barriers category. Each of the codes that were originally included within the perceptions and feeling category was re coded into the barriers or s uccess strategy categories or dropped from the analysis. Trustworthiness The author is Latina who was raised culturally Catholic, though not in a Jesuit tradition. She did not attend Catholic schools or universities, though her children have. She had b een employed at CatholicU for approximately nine months prior the onset of focus groups, and prior to her hire, she read in the local newspaper about negative cultural issues on the campus including some students participating in a #CatholicUisnotme campai gn. To mitigate bias, the author took notes during each session, and journaled her thoughts following each session. Further, she journaled throughout the data analysis process to document decisions or assumptions that had arisen. of her dissertation research project served as a third party reviewer of the findings to assist with validation of data interpretation and bias mitigation. We met at various points in the data collection and data analyses process e s follow ing the first focus group, at the completion of data collection, following the first round of coding, and at the completion of coding. His audit s helped to ensure the findings were grounded in the data,

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31 contained appropriate category structure, and acknowledg ed the degree of researcher bias (Creswell & Miller, 2000).

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32 C HAPTER IV RESULTS The purpose of this study was to understand the perspectives of traditional aged and adult Latinx undergraduates at a Catholic university (dubbed CatholicU) on the cultural engagement of the campus environment. Twenty one students participated in one of nine focus groups during the summer and fall of 2018. Responses were coded into Success Strategies, Barriers to Success and Perceptions of the Campus environment and results differentiated between adults and traditional aged students. The p erceptions were ultimately deemed to align as either a barrier or success strategy, and eventually coded into those themes. Students identified barriers to their success and strategies that aided in their successful academic and social progression at the university. One additional theme, bureaucratic inefficiencies throughout the university, did not necessarily relate to their Latinx identity, but rather to a deficiency of serving their basic needs as students of any race or background. This chapter addresses the three research questions and utilizes direct quotes from the participants to capture the emotion and sentiments of t he participants. How C ulturally E ngaging do Latinx U ndergraduate S tudents F ind CatholicU E nvironment? Results from the analysis demonstrate that Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU do not find a culturally engaging campus environment. Student participants identified more barriers to their success than they noted strategies that supported their social and a cademic progression at the university. For example, When culturally engaging support mechanisms were identified by students, these mechanisms were happenstance

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33 or presented with qualifiers rather than perceived as deliberate strategies developed by the university for the benefit of Latinx student success. Michelle, an adult transfer student noted, CatholicU to any of my cultural roots. The closest we have would be that class. That's only because some of the This theme of happenstance and qualifiers for support will be discussed further as part of research question two. It is sufficient to say that students did not find CatholicU to be culturally engaging. Detailed analysis that demonstrate s that Latinx undergrads do not find the Cath olicU environment culturally engaging is more thoroughly addressed within research question number two. that people must have basic necessities such as food and shelter met before they can develop a social belonging, students may experience a similar set of foundational needs that must be met in an academic setting before they can develop a sense of belongin g and take advantage of a culturally engaging environment. With extensive bureaucracy and without fundamental provisions in place, CatholicU did not meet the basic student needs of the Latinx population. Given this failure to provide for basic student nee ds, it is clear that CatholicU would be unable to provide for higher order needs of cultural engagement. The impact of b ureaucracy on the student experience is described below. Bureaucracy Though not directly related to their identity as Latinx students , undergraduates across all nine focus groups acknowledged numerous university bureaucratic challenges that hindered their student experience at CatholicU . Fifty five of 282 barrier comments (19.4%) were related to

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34 shortcomings of baseline expectations that any student would have for a successful collegiate experience, including registration issues, new student onboarding, and difficulty securing adequate academic advising. Student onboarding. Michelle, an adult provide a welcoming environment when she first enrolled and continues to put her off by not oming into the school , I was never really given like a tour. I didn't get a map that gave me where to go ver actually met my advisor. To this day [we] still haven't [met] in person impressed with her onboarding experience. When she arrived for her appointment, h er courses were not geared for her chosen major. She stated: W e just got an email and they were like, we'll make an appointment and then you're gonna come in they give me random classes and now I would have 13 hour days because I would have an 8 a.m. a nd then a class I don't know how to buy books. Though traditional and adult undergraduate students experience different onboarding processes , both students groups identified flaws with their experiences. Registration i ssues . Course sequenci ng a nd course availability were noted as problematic. Adult student Alba, a senior, shared her struggle with staying on target to graduate when her academic department did not routinely offer required courses. When a required senior level course was full one term, she had to double up during the next eight week session. She shared:

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35 I'm at the end of my program . I could not get a class, like there was nothing I could get and so did a couple of things. I had to double up on a class on two classes, which was really hard . A nd then I had all th ese issue s with like my student loans because it looked like I wasn't in part time and so they, you know, I had to do my own self deferment and then I had to file more paperwork here at the school so that they would contact my, uh, my loan Nelnet and Navi e nt and all that kind of stuff. So that was a pain. But the two classes, um, at the same time, that's really hard to do when you're a working adult . Traditional aged junior, Marisa, also experienced registration iss ues the first time she registered herself as a spring semester freshman. She remembered: They told me that like you register on a certain day, but I had no idea that if you don't wait up until midnight to do it, you don't have a space in class. And I'm like, if you hadn't told me that I would have gone in at like noon and seen that there was no spaces left. Like you don't get that information. Student frustration with lack of course availability and course sequencing resonated with both adults and traditional aged students and hindered their ability to make successful academic progression at CatholicU. Academic a dvisors . Issues with academic advising were abound for both traditional and adult students. Because course requirements were not we ll communicated, or course availability was limited students became increasingly reliant on personal support of their academic advisors to succeed academically. When students could not access those advisors, their trajectory was impacted negatively. Cass ie, a traditional sophomore became emotional when she shared her experience meeting her advisor for the first time. She expected her advisor would not only

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36 encourage her academic program of choice, but would register on her behalf since the university did so when she first entered. She remembered: M y advisor was terrible. So I went in for an advising appointment and he, I wanted to be an English major. Like originally he asked me like where I went to look up words and I was like Google. And he was lik e, well maybe you shouldn't be an English major because we use the Webster's dictionary. It was just like telling me that I wasn't interested in anything and maybe I shouldn't be like thinking about college or like thinking about like stuff like that. So I just left the appointment. It was Halloween. I just remember I was crying in my costume , and I left and I didn't even know how to register for classes because I thought that that was his job because I've never had to do that for myself. The bureaucrat ic inconsistencies confused students and made it difficult to know which emails were important and which information was not relevant to them. They wished for an active student website or portal that contain ed important dates and how to information regard ing registration. Justine, a twenty one year old traditional senior remembered her challenges as a new student. She shared, M y freshman year I usually, I usually had to seek it out I tried to ask people but they were not very helpful when it came to tha t kind of stuff. It was like I would try to find important information that I needed, um, for and that kind of stuff and like I was just lost my freshman year just trying to figure out like the ins and outs of I just h ad to find it myself. It was like long hours. It's just searching on the web, searching through countless things just or talking to other students but not really anybody from CatholicU .

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37 While these bureaucratic barriers were not directly related to their Latinx identity, these root problems were so challenging to overcome that attending to cultural engagement seemed an insurmountable task. Whether they hit barriers related to registratio n, onboarding or academic advising, having sufficient support related to enrollment is foundational for their success as students. If these students were also first generation, these impediments could be seen as unwelcome messages that the university was not committed to enrolling students who did not already know how to enroll themselves. What are E lements of CatholicU E nvironment that S upport or H inder the E ngagement of Latinx U ndergraduate S tudents? Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU identified barriers that inhibited the cultural engagement of the campus environment as well as support strategies that reinforced a positive cultural environment. Analysis and direct student quotes on their barriers to success and success strategies are identified below. Barriers to Success Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU provided 283 quotes identifying barriers to their success at the university. These barriers followed three overarching themes related to a culturally engaging campus environment: a lack of action following words that seemed supportive, a community of peers, and a culturally competent and representative faculty and staff and direct quotes of both traditional aged and adult students that best capture the impact of these barriers are included.

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38 I naction. as a reminder to not only engage in intellectu al pursuits, but to act on those thoughts in a way that betters humankind. In discussing their barriers to success, undergraduate students at CatholicU were quick to praise formal communications from campus leadership on important topics, but students wer e frustrated about a seeming lack of action by leadership based on those communications. Fifteen responses out of 283 were recorded (5.3%) on this particular topic. However, when this theme was discussed, the students invoked much passion in the response s. A related subtheme was students questioning if activities pertinent to the Latinx community were actually occurring on campus and if the students were simply unaware. In either case, the result is the same: students cannot attend events if they are no t occurring or they are unaware that they exist. Emails are not enough . In June of 2018, the president of CatholicU issued a press release and statement regarding the immigration crisis on the US Mexico border, calling for an end to the family separatio n policy enacted under the Trump presidency. This was not the first time the Jesuit leader of the university expressed his support of immigrants, as he publicly reconfirmed his support of DACA students in September of 2017, and in August of 2017 penned an op ed in the Klu Klux Klan and Nazi ideology . with the campus community and made a strong impression of commitment to social justice for the students I interviewed. However, as impactful as these sentiments were , students expressed a longing for more: what action would these words heed and how would the university become a leader to enact change on these is sues?

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39 Adult student Ana appreciated receiving emails from the President, but also wanted to know if scholarships to afford the private university tuition would be made available to the undocumented students that CatholicU was accepting. Ana began: I feel like there is support like maybe through social media, but I'm not sure exactly what else, how else they're supporting it because I work with high school students and a lot of them are reluctant to go to college right after high school because they don't have a lot of financial assistance . Jennifer, a twenty year old traditional sophomore, also appreciated the campus wide communication and wanted assurance that a higher level policy change was in the works. She explained: Yeah. I, I really appreciate the emails he sent but I have followed up and I mean I'm lot of them say like, Oh this is how we just feel. And I'm like, okay, then wh en are you talking to the senator a nd the governor, like are you taking any action to make your voice heard? And so far I haven't received a response but I'm hoping that's in the back of their mind. Marisa, a twenty one year ou're like , really ? L ike there are DACA students here and we only got an email . L ike that's not really saying much. two year old senior agrees and would like to see a campus environment that openly and authentically expresses its values in public view. He shared, I t'd be really helpful to for there to be explicit acknowledgements that your identity is welcome what if, when you walked in, it said DACA students are welcome here, no

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40 questions asked. That's just how we, whatever, whatever lens you w ant to look at it, oh, that's the right thing to do humanistically or Jesuit l ens. That's the right thing to do . Students appreciated CatholicU sending emails to the entire campus on issues that were politically and socially important to them, such as me ssages of support regarding DACA students and immigrants. However, they were equally disappointed that campus leadership did not follow these communications with visible actions of support on these same topics. If something Latinx happening, no communicat ion . In addition to a perceived lack of action following important declarations of support for Latinx communities, students were unclear if events or programming relevant to their interests were occurring on the campus, or if events were happening but poor ly communicated . Alba is 49 years old and stressed three different times during our meeting that, in her nine years as a nontraditional student at CatholicU, my invitation to participate in this focus group was the first time anyone from the university ha d ike I said, you're the first one that's, you know, reached out and said hey, we're having like a focus group. Anybody interested or... t hat's never happened . I've never seen anything like that . Vincent, a twenty one year old traditional junior, also expressed his lack of awareness of programing for Latinx communities, and wonder ed if he wa s simply not aware of existing programming. He share d : But I don't think there's ve ry many opportunities on campus. But I could be wrong. Again, I don't know much about the services, but as a student from what I've heard, as a Latinx student from what I've heard, it's not that much.

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41 Because silence is often viewed as complicit agreemen t, students stressed the importance However, the students also wanted a follow up to these declarations with visible and public actions to reinforce the university actions might have included programming specific to Latinx students. However, students could not identify if such opportunities existed. In either case, the end result is the same. Students cannot attend events if they do not occur or they do not know they exist. Lack of Community. Catholic University enrolls more than 900 undergraduate Latinx students in both traditional 16 week programs and accelerated non traditiona l academic formats. Though this equates to 18% of the undergraduate student body, a lack of community of peers was noted by both traditional and adult Latinx students. Of the 283 quotes related to barriers at the university, 76 comments (26.8%) related t o a lack of community, with 63 responses (82.9%) from traditional students, and 13 remarks (17.1%) noted by adult students. While some comments related to a general lack of community, such as an absence of school spirit, most community themes centered aro und feelings of isolation that was difficult for Latinx students to find each other or authentically connect with non Latinx students. In addition, students noted a competitive rather than collective campus environment, and neglect of commuter students wh o were thought to be unable to afford to live on campus. . Although there is a relatively large Latinx population on campus, it was not uncommon for participants in my nine focus groups to not know one another, which seemed especially odd in instances where they had lived in the same residence hall or were studyi ng in the same academic program. For example, Natalie and Lizzy are both traditional sophomores who live on the second floor of a suite style residence hall. For more than a month,

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42 they lived only a few doors down from one another in Green Hall yet it wa s nearly an hour into our discussion before they realized they lived down the hall from each other. Lack of connection in the residence halls with Latinx peers was not limited to Natalie and Lizzy . Jaime and Justine , both juniors, lived in the same resid ence hall their freshmen year but did not know each other. During the focus group, Jaime joked that if he had spent more time in the dorm, perhaps they would have met. He explain ed , I, uh, so I wanted to get like the quote unquote full college experienc e. So I lived here for two years, freshman and sophomore year. And I found that even though I wasn't very conscious about it most of the people in my dorm hall, since they didn't look like me, I, I simply couldn't relate to them . A nd so I found myself whi le they were like going off to parties or like doing stuff on campus, I would go back [home] and hang out with my friends that I went to school with and I didn't really realize that that happened until the year after looking back, I definitely spent the mo st of my time, especially that first semester of freshman year off campus on the weekends even though I lived here. Grace and Justine nodded as Jamie shared his story. It was also theirs. Justine, who also lived on campus in the same resident hall during the same time as Jaime, shared a similar sentiment. hat was the same experience for me. Like my freshman year. Like I couldn't relate to anybody. Like it just felt like, oh, I had to just go off campus and go find my own way. Residence halls were not the only areas that could benefit from leadership in community development, as Latinx students would also benefit from intentional development in their academic programs, whether online or face to face. Stella, a traditional neuro science major, lamented the dearth of Latinx interaction within her academic major by sharing:

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43 I go to events here and there, but I'm not really, I'm [not] part of like any many groups besides having to do with my major and my studies. So I feel like it was a little bit more difficult for me to meet, um, people of my same ethic culture. Ana and Carlota, both adult students majoring in applied psychology, did not know each other prior to the focus group. Carlota compares her experience at CatholicU to her previous collegiate experiences. She shared: I'm comparing my experience with , a huge community of Latin o community at [previous community college] . And I remember that every time if there was a Latin o in class, whether that Latin o spoke a different la nguage, Spanish or not, we will be able to connect it to each other and build a relationship right away just because we were Latin o s and it was so easy to find and, and get into the Latin o communi ty. And here, um, I haven't had that experience. And even i f I see someone else that's Latin o , it's more like I'm going to class, I'm going to class and listening to what I have to listen and participate in class. Once the class is over, Ciao that's, it has been my experience here. Lack of community reported by fo cus group participants seemed to extend to the general student population and an unwelcoming campus environment. Whether these disconnects centered around politics or socioeconomics, Latinx students struggled to find non Latinx students with whom to conne ct. Nineteen year old Elena shared, I n class, we do meet a lot of people and you know, you feel like you're starting to get along with them, but then you see them outside and they automatically like kind of shut you down. It's just like, wow. Were you just like trying to, you know, talk to me in class

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44 because you had no one else but now that you're with your friends , i t's like, oh I don't know her. Feelings of Latinx isolation on CatholicU campus seemed to heighten after the 2016 presidential election. Various students described how the campus felt tense and they felt further marginalized as Latinx students. Traditional junior Marisa shared her exper ience with a MAGA L ike usually campus is okay. But then like the day after that elect ion, a nd you could just feel the tension then to see that [MAGA] shirt you're like ike you don't think I should be her e a lot of my family are immigrants and you wearing that shirt is saying like [I] shouldn't be here either. And the kid wearing that shirt was like, h well I believe this and this and that and we're like, Dude you're wearing that shirt when half of the class is Hispanic students. So it was just very uncomfortable to be in that class when that happened. Traditional senior Jamie was also negatively impacted and shared his Trump election related experience. He shared, But it's very difficult. Especiall y after November ninth of 2016 to feel like I can necessarily trust people who aren't people of color I know white students who were my friend s and I know they, for example, have a political leaning that affects people like myself every single day ... It' s hard for me to then say I know that you voted for Donald T rump because it's a political opinion of yours that my family members should be deported. That doesn't translate to me as you caring about my succes s.

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45 Political tensions appeared to exacerbate fe eling s of isolation and lack of community experienced by Latinx students at CatholicU. Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU found difficulties in establishing community connections both with Latinx students and non Latinx students. Latinx students struggled to find connections in traditional spaces, such as residence halls or academic programs, and were equally challenged with developing community with non Latinx students in the general campus environment. This lack of connection was exacerbated by politica l differences among the student body and were a prevalent experience for both traditional aged and adult students. Competition: the Hunger Games . The challenges for Latinx undergrads to develop community, whether amongst themselves or with the general st udent population was also exacerbated by a strong sense of competition among the students. Whether by default or by design, the CatholicU environment is one that is perceived to value competition to the detriment of student ability to connect on campus, e specially for those in traditional programs. This competitive nature seems to be both ingrained in the academic majors and encouraged by certain faculty members, which in turn contributes to students competing with one another rather than supporting one a nother. Solana is a twenty year old traditional student who shared: I think that's a little hard because I feel like in college it's kind of you've reached the point where you're like, it's constant competition with one another. So like you're trying to almost like outdo another person or try to like be better Like there's no one really there like besides you I kind of see it as like, you kind of fending for yourself where you're just, you're there to do good for yourself. Kind of like there's no one t hat's going to do better to help you succeed but yourself .

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46 Like I know one person who's helped but other than that really everyone that I've met is here for themselves and if you need help, like no one's ther e to help you. It appear ed that some of this student competition was promoted by faculty. A riana , a traditional senior explained how she felt a chemistry teacher promoted a culture of competition: T here's just this one girl was like rich and like, you kn ow, she comes from a really small white town and then like she would compete with me all the time and I was like, what? I this one chemistry teacher that I did have that was really, really bad with like showi ng like sensitivity to certain students and then like if they needed extra help I don't think like that atmosphere helped at all. Like make it so that students were okay asking for help. Like, I had so many friends that were like, A riana, I don't want to go to the teacher. And then like, you know that I think that explains why the girl was so okay with competing and stuff all the time because the teacher just kind of like just reflected that. Cassie and Marisa phrased the competitive culture of Catholic We don't have that community but like we're forced to do it by ourselves . I feel like we're in the Hunger Games all the time. than unite Latinx students and others on the CatholicU campus. While a collectivist environment may holistically help students to succeed, the competitive nature of their experiences clashed against community building. No community for commuters. Because of the nature of the adult pr ograms, nontraditional students do not generally live on campus , and are commuters for their entire program.

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47 Traditional students, on the other hand, are required to live on campus for their freshmen and sophomore years unless they receive a special dispe nsation. For this reason, being a commuter student was more impactful on the experience to traditional Latinx undergraduates than was for nontraditional students. In one focus groups session Marisa and Cassie described the perceptions of commuters and the challenge commuter students face in making connections with other students. Marisa stated: I feel like you're already seen, oh, you're a commuter, like you can't even afford to live on campus. And then adding on top of that, we're Hispanic that's even, like Oh, stay away from them , type of thing. So it was kind of hard because it's like in the dorm that everyone gets to know each other. So [students who live in the dorms] make that group of friends and then when you're only here for a few hours a day, it 's kind of hard to get in those groups once they're made. Cassie added: That's why I moved here. I didn't live here for two weeks at like the beginning of the year and I was like, I am so sad. Like I'm, I'm not making any friends. Nobody's talking to me Like I felt so like pushed out and so alone that it was depressing to me that like that nobody wanted to talk to me or that nobody even looked at me. I like eat lunch upstairs in my mom's office because my mom works here. So like I would just sit with her and like it was just sad because then I'd go back down. Then nobody would look at me. So I moved in. I like put myself in debt and like so much more debt just so I could feel like that I'm wanted. And like I know for a fact that if I didn't live h ere I would not want to come to CatholicU .

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48 Because many Latinx traditional students are also commuter students, these students may miss out on opportunities to connect with their peers. In addition, those who live on campus, whether Latinx or not, miss an important opportunity to engage and learn from these commuters as well. Jaime explained, If you stay on campus, it's hard to find others that also stay on campus. A huge chunk of Latinx students are commuters I had a class with many, many folks who are like myself are also in the business schoo l like I am But I also know that these are the same folks that I wouldn't necessarily be able to hang out with after 6:00 p.m. or so, or even in some cases like 4:00 p.m. because they're already gone back home or work or whatever the case is. So it's not that hard to find them on campus, but whether or not there's opportunities to truly develop a friendship with them, that's what's lacking, I would say. Issues of community were important to the Latinx undergraduates of CatholicU. They shared stories of l oneliness and an inability to develop a strong community with other Latinx students either in the residence halls or in their academic programs, and how political differences challenged their ability to connect with non Latinx students on the campus in gen eral. against rather than connecting with non Latinx students. Finally, traditional students who commuted to campus found it difficult to connect with Latin x and non Latinx students. This was not only a loss for the Latinx commuters, however, as the general CatholicU community missed the opportunity to authentically engage with commuters and learn from their valuable experiences. Lack of Cultural Competenc y. Lack of Cura Personalis. Undergraduate Latinx students at CatholicU noted a lack of cultural competency across the university campus in areas

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49 critical to their academic progression including, faculty and curriculum, staff and programming, and service l earning experiences, generating 79 of 283 comments (28.0%). Seventeen of 79 comments (21.5%) were from adult students. While undergraduate Latinx students comprise 18% of the student body, only 5.8% of faculty of all ranks and 16.4% of staff and administr ators at Catholic University self identified as Latinx. As there is not parity in student demographics with either faculty or staff, it is imperative that those employed by the university are well versed in designing and executing curricula and co curricu lar experiences that are relevant to and capitalize on Latinx student experiences. Absent these experiences, students were quick to identify the areas of bias on campus and the negative impacts this had on their sense of belonging. Faculty bias and inabi lity to address issues of diversity. The i mpact of faculty on Latinx students at CatholicU cannot be emphasized enough. Across every focus group, students cited were well meaning, students did not perceive that they had the skill sets to relate to diverse student populations or suppor t meaningful cross cultural dialog. Marisa, a traditional aged student, was hoping to have a robust discussion with her teacher and peers to help debrief the angst she was feeling after the presidential election of Donald Trump. Because the class focuse d on social justice issues, she expected this would be the conversation for the day. Her faculty was not eager, or perhaps unable to facilitate such a discussion. She recalled, I remember last year when T rump got elected and we were in a social justice class and our professor specifically said, we're not going to discuss what happened and we're not going to talk about how everyone's feeling. Um, and there was a student there that wore

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50 a make make America great again shirt. And there was a lot of Hispan ic students in that class and you could just feel the tension in the class and on campus that whole day. And we were like, okay, well we're going to come in and talk about what happened, talk about our feelings, and she's straight up was like, we're not g oing to discuss this, we're gonna write your things on paper. And then I'll read over it. And we were like, are you serious? Like you're not going to talk about what happened when this affects so many of us? And she just thought it was like we're not go ing to discuss it, we don't want to offend others' political views. And I'm like, really? So that was kind of, we were all kind of like, okay, we think this is something we should talk about. And it was never discussed. This lack of cultural competency in faculty caused students to hesitate to seek help, as they were afraid it would reinforce negative stereotypes about Latinx students. Vincent, a twenty one year old traditional sophomore explain ed , Yeah. Blind spot. So yeah, so like in terms of helping you know, Latin o students and know how, two, more importantly they don't see the need for it. So yes. Yeah, a lot of ust to talk to them [faculty] just because they're white. Men and women for and with others is key Jesuit value at CatholicU that emphasizes the importance of serving others. F ive comments by traditional students were made regarding community service in their academic programs. While many students participate in service learning opportunities in the community, Latinx undergrads noted that this endeavor is neither a whom service is being performed. Again, Latinx students were aware of the faculty bias which can set

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51 an example for the non Latinx student participants to not fully understand the rationale for the community based experiences. Students acknowledged non L atinx peers who exhibited a white savior complex or superiority complex when performing community service. Jaime, a traditional senior explain ed , I wish CatholicU facilitated the ability for students who come from those communities to also go back and help fix issues in those communities. You would find probably if you asked, non Latinx students that there are many opportunities. Um, but I also think I also fear t hat they can approach it with the wrong mentality. They can approach it with a savior complex of sorts. Um, and not really, you know, it's like if I'm feeling altruistic or giving for a day, I may like go out and help this community, but I didn't do the h ard work of learning the systemic reasons why the community is where it's at. And so we don't have it, you know, if you're not a quote unquote social justice warrior, really dive into that on your own. CatholicU doesn't really facilitate you being able t o grasp that. Latinx student s at CatholicU view faculty as a critical element in their academic journey. do w ell t o examine biases against Latinx students or others from n ondominant communities and secure professional development to work with the students sitting in their classes and as they are leading service opportunities within the community. Lack of relatable staff and relevant programming. Students expressed a desire to have staff at all levels of the university, from the Board of Trustees to student employees, who looked like them and could relate to their experiences as nondominant students. When Latinx staff were not present, relevant co curricular programming and services were not readily available for the students. Lack of representative staff and lack of training for existing staff were noted. Students

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52 recalled diverse, non Latinx staff who sponsored a fledgling cinco de mayo event, and once the staff left the university the event was discontinued. In addition, they recalled an affirmative action bake sale that targeted non dominant communities as a hurtful experience. However, the attempt at follow up made the incident worse rather than better due to less tha n competent staff. From the Board to student workers, Latinx students are strongly interested in representative staff with cultural competencies to serve their campus needs appropriately. Vincent, a former resident advisor recall ed his experience working in the residence halls : I think where they're at position wise, I think it's super important. I mean, like I said, we just hired a new hall director, the guy under Bradley, we just hired . T hat was two opportunities where, you know, a person of color wo uld have been super nice to have. Um, I know when I was an RA I had no one to go to higher up than me. A nd I know for students it's definitely rough seeing RAs and then you don't feel comfortable talking to them because they're all white. So you go, I'l l go and talk to the hall director. Oh, they're white too. I'll go higher. White. W hite. W hite, you know . Other students worried that their accessing services might reinforce existing negative stereotypes of Latinx students. In explaining why they do not feel comfortable using the tutoring center that is staffed by white student peers, traditional student Cassie explained, Because I had like a girl that I tutored with that was at the at the writing center and she's like, would tell me about all these people. Like, oh my God, this person doesn't know how to write or like I fixed this whole paper for them and I'm like, that doesn't make me want to go because now they , all the students probably think of us like that .

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53 Here Cassie worries about the existi ng negative portrayal of Latinx students and how her utilization of tutoring services might exacerbate this image of Latinx students. Hearing her tutor complain about other students deficiencies, leads Cassie to believe that this tutor might also complain about her portraying Latinx students negatively. Though students had already discussed the missed opportunities for strong cross cultural dialog in the classroom, they also noted ho w these types of discussions could be facilitated in a co curricular environment. This would, however, require staff to be well versed in this area. Traditional student Solana noted, I don't think there's a lot of opportunity for good dialogue, you know , good conversation with people that are, uh, have different values or different beliefs, different backgrounds than you. And I think in main part of that is, once again, I think the university is unequipped for that . Further addressing the lack of compet ence in addressing difference, Jaime, a twenty year old traditional student shared his views on the importance of having diverse staff in the student affairs division for both support and creation of relevant cultural programming stated: The student activ ities office, there aren't people of color ther But if I'm being honest as a student leader of color I don't necessarily feel comfortable with the student activities, student affairs staff on that level do I feel like they grasp or explicitly care about m y experience necessarily? No, not at all. Twenty one year old Vincent, expressed the need for diverse and culturally aware staff across all departments of the university for his lifelong health and wellbeing. He shared,

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54 I think um over at counseling be cause I think that's also super has a negative stigma in terms of Latin o culture, mental health and things like that I go there and then it's all white. So you kinda like you know, you don't feel comfortable even th ough , you know, you do have this oppor tunity . A nd so I think in a place like that , super important . C areer development, you know . A ll of a sudden having these super, super important, um, in terms of personal success and personal health and wellbeing, um, positions . F or students I think def initely needs to be more diverse, not just in terms of professors and stuff like that, you know . Y ou could arguably get away with white professors, um, but in positions where like it's almost like a mandatory thing, you know, mental health, career develop ment, things like that, residence life and housing, those are the things that are necessary for student success but also, you know, later on in life success and to have no diversity in those positions I think is a tragedy for students. Recognizing representation impacts on students holistic support would advance the Jesuit core value of Cura Personalis, Latin for Care of the Whole Person. Engaging a faculty, Latinx identity as strength, would be a strong step to fully support the entirety of the Latinx student experience at CatholicU. Additionally, the university would be well advised to consider how its remaining operations, or bureaucratic functions, serve as a support or barrier to students on the campus. Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU provided their perspectives on barriers to their success at the university that impacted the culturally engaging campus environment. Regarding their Latinx identity, st udents identified minimal action following words of support from campus leadership, a limited community of peers, and the need for culturally competent faculty and staff.

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55 Despite these deficiencies, pockets of success were also found to advance their acad emic journey. Success Strategies Students at Catholic University had positive feedback regarding their overall educational experience at the university. However, the se responses noted that these instances were more haphazard than strategies employed by th e university to intentionally create a culturally engaging campus environment. With more than 200 extracts on positive campus impacts, b oth adult and traditional students noted the importance of faculty and community support on their success on campus. Fa culty . Across all focus groups, every student interviewed noted the importance of faculty on their success at CatholicU . Of the 232 quotations on success strategies noted by the students, 65 (28%) were in reference to support by faculty members of the university . In general, students fel t faculty want them to be academically successful, though students acknowledged that most faculty did not inherently support n or acknowledge their cultural identity. cknowledged and validated by both Latinx faculty and certain non Latinx faculty. This culturally relevant acknowledgment proved just as formative as the general support received, and when combined with generally accepted faculty duties, its cumulative eff ect was a powerful motivator for student success. Outlined t impacts of Latinx faculty and the positive impressions non Latinx faculty have had on student success on the campus.

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56 General support of faculty. More than half of the 65 comments related to faculty were regarding general support on topics about course questions or advi sing , with 24 (37%) of those 65 comments coming from adult undergraduates, and 41 (63%) fro m traditional undergraduates. While this support did not explicitly promote Latinx identity, this type of support was described as important to Latinx student success at CatholicU. Natalie, a nineteen year old traditional sophomore explained, I think just in general, the professors are very helpful like when I go to talk to them . I directly towards the Latin o community, but um, they're just like always there to help with anything that you need. Like I can go in like at any, any like re gular time and they're willing to help me with whatever I need. In general, faculty were readily available to students, though students often had to take the lead to ask for help and were the instigators for the relationship development. Helping student s navigate course expectation is likely a minimal expectation for faculty, but having flexibility with students was found to support their obligations outside of CatholicU. While this might not be employed to intentionally support their Latinx identity, i t did help to support their non student obligations such as famil ial responsibilities, and this did prove supportive to their identity. Carlota, a thirty four year old adult student noted the importance of CatholicU faculty being understanding of her outs ide obligations: I think that staff or faculty members they're very willing to work with students and doesn't matter what their background is, but they're usually willing to work with students when the re a re issues. And so, for Latin o s or at least for me as a Latina, that is a very, very important I'm usually one of those students who like to turn in assignments on time but if there's something going on, I also want to have that opportunity, you know,

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57 to make up the work or to work out something with the instructor that's something that I really, really value a lot because family for me is the most important thing. Um, and I think that's a common thing in Latin o s with families having an instructor that really understands that part, um, it's, it's really valuable for us. So, if it's not exactly something that CatholicU is doing specifically for Latin o s, but it's something that Latin o s may value when they see that. Although these support mechanisms were not specific to creating a culturally responsive community, Latinx students found general faculty support to be important to their success on the CatholicU campus. Latinx faculty. Students referred to the importance of Latinx faculty who provided intentional support of Latinx students , even though there were very few of these faculty on campus . Of the twelve references to Latinx faculty, two were made in adult focus groups and the rest were made by traditional students. Their impact, however, ma de lasting and relevant impressions on the experiences of the students. Seven quotations about faculty were in reference to a priest who teaches a Latinx Catholicism course and five quotations (7.6%) were about Spanish professors who had influence on stud ents beyond the language curriculum. Distinct from general support of faculty, Latinx faculty members not only addressed the general course related questions of students, but also offered students comfort and ease that they did not feel when approaching f aculty from dominant cultures. According to Vincent, a twenty one year old traditional undergraduate: I know a professor that I was pretty comfortable with was F ather Mateo . And he is you know, I think one of my only if not my only Latin o professor I saw him, and I just like, I felt, you know, comfortable with him, you know when I got into class with him I

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58 already like, it's before class even started the first day I sat down and I was like, I'm comfortable, you know, and like I read through the syllabus a nd like some of that work was a little much and stuff like I really wasn't really too interested in the reading as it was, like the material, but like I was never stressed about it. I'm like, you know, i f I have trouble , I can just talk to him I think that aspect of seeing him up there, you know, a little Hispanic man. That's nice to see. It definitely is. And if he reached out to me like, Vin , you need help or anything, I would definitely be more open to talking to him. In addition to the imp acts of Father Mateo, students were quick to call out other Latinx professors who understood the experience of the students and provided instruction and advice that positively shaped their experiences at CatholicU. Marisa, a twenty one year old traditiona l student recalled: L ike my Professor Romero when she knew that I was in the nursing program, she was like, you have to fend for yourself. Like she was t he person that would motivate me because I told her I didn't make it automatically , and that I had to reapply. And she was a, she's like, these are her words. She's like you have to fend for yourself because you're Latina no one's gonna help you. You have to do this on your own I'm not saying this because I don't want to, like, I don't want to discoura ge hat's the truth at I'm a professor here and I'm telling you this . B ut it makes a difference because you're like, all right, well at least you're telling me the truth i nstead of like sugar coating it. These Latinx faculty pr ovided a validating environment for the undergraduates that ultimately helped them to navigate the campus successfully.

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59 Non Latinx faculty: you would think he was part Latinx . In addition to the influence of Latinx faculty, students had examples of non Latinx faculty who made intentional and positive references to their cultural identity. Sixteen of 65 (24.6%) comments about faculty were about faculty who students perceived as White or otherwise not of Latinx herit age, and the influence of these faculty. Adult undergrad Alba noted: L ast December was my last in class and um, I think it's Steve Peters I think, I think that's his name. Um, he, he was the kindest soul he was Caucasian but you would think he was part Latin o really because he really was like he talked about , u m, how Hispanics value family and um, you know, food, you bring food, families that eat together, stay together. And so there was a few times like he bought pizza. Um, so none of us would leave f or the break so that we all sat and ate and just, you know, talked how are you doing, how are you this and you know, that kind of stuff it was the concept he was going for like the Jesuit concept and the Latin o community I mean, I loved, loved, loved, lov ed the class and I was really glad that was like my last in class experience. And you could just feel his soul. He was just the kindest man ever. Jaime also shared, T he faculty that as a student you develop a relationship that you can tell, understand your background, not from like a literal, like empathetic standpoint. They don't literally understand, but they grasp that this can be a tough transition for you because of how you look. Those are the folks that are often most helpful on the faculty side . Because these Non Latinx faculty provided exceptional general student support as well as specifically acknowledg ing and support ing students Latinx identi t y, the ir actions embody one of the key Jesuit values, Cura Personalis: Care for the Whole Person . Th ey were also instrumental

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60 in advancing aspects of the CECE, particularly in developing a humanized environment. The se faculty not only cared for the educational advancement of the students, but also were concerned holistically wellbeing, i ncluding cultur e, family and other aspects important to their identities . Cultural C ommunity . The Jesuit environment of CatholicU is generally perceived to be "welcoming" and "open minded" and areas like the residence halls somewhat contribute to that. However, Latinx students recognize the importance of community to their success in one of three ways: developing friendships with La tinx or other students of color, speaking Spanish, or involvement in a student run affinity group called Unidos . Traditional and non traditional Latinx undergrads at CatholicU provided 41 comments on the importance of community at the university that rein forced four CECE themes: cultural familiarity, culturally validating environment, culturally relevant knowledge and a humanized environment. Other Latinx and students of color. Traditional and non traditional Latinx undergrads at CatholicU provided 41 comments on the importance of community at the university, and 16 comments were specific to the supportive peer environment created by meeting other Latinx students or students of color. Adult learners provided five of these comments. Although students may have come from different geographical regions (urban versus rural, in state versus out of state), the students discussed the benefits of connecting with others who could relate to their own cultural experiences and how those interactions validated their existence at CatholicU. Jennifer is a twenty year old traditional sophomore who attended a predominantly white, private high school before enrolling at CatholicU. She valued bei ng surrounded by students who could relate to her experience without having to always explain herself:

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61 I definitely feel like it's easier to have conversations with people who have the same background as you. I feel like it's deeper , and I feel more comf ortable because even though I went to a high school that is not as much as CatholicU was, it was more, um, less exclusive. I still feel uncomfortable , and I would still tend to be attracted to people who were of similar background as me. Grace, an eightee n year old traditional sophomore attended a more diverse, but private high school and had a similar experience and a revelation during the focus group. She stated, I find myself leaning more towards like people of color , and I don't do it like intentionally. Like I just now that I look at all my friends like one Ethiopian and one's Pakistani, you know, like several of them are Mexican or Guatemalan and I was just like, oh, like I, it's like unconsciously . Integrating into a comfortable and relatable community was important to both traditional and adult undergraduates at CatholicU. Students differed in many aspects of their lives, such as where they grew up, but they still felt an affinity to peers with whom they could relate culturally. Importance of speaking Spanish. Twelve of the 41 responses regarding the importance of finding a welcoming community at CatholicU were directly related to speaking Spanish, with adults referencing the language in seven comments and tr aditional aged students acknowledging it in five responses. This is notable in that, not all the responses came from students who were native Spanish speakers nor those who considered themselves fluent in the language. Rather, students felt the environmen t was more welcoming when the Spanish could be heard and spoken freely and borderline hostile if it could not.

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62 Lizzy is a nineteen year old traditional student who is half Mexican, but whose coloring CatholicU, she has tried to better understand and connect with her Latinx heritage, though she recognizes she does not present as Latinx. Regarding Spanish she said: I actually didn't have a difficult time because I think I just got lucky . L ike in my h all, I met my friend Tezcatli and she speaks English fluently, so I mean she's like, it was helping to teach me Spanish, which I really liked. And so, we speak Spanish in front of other people , and I'm still learning. I'm not flu ent and no one said anyth ing or gave me any weird looks, but maybe it's because I look more White . The use and acceptance of Spanish for both native and non native speakers helped to form a welcoming environment for Latinx undergrads at CatholicU. Ana, a thirty nine year old stu you feel that support, you know, and you have people that speak your language as well and understand where you're coming from. ingual in English and Spanish or English dominant speakers, Latinx students found an environment supportive of the language beneficial to their experience at CatholicU. Unidos: Searching for their identity. Fifteen of the 41 responses regarding the impor tance of finding a welcoming community at CatholicU were related to student groups and more specifically in reference to Unidos, a student lead organization. While adults were quick to note the importance of networking and other academic related co curric ular organizations, the benefit of Unidos and other similar student activities were relegated to the domain of traditional students, with all fifteen responses emanating from them. It was important to one student to note specifically that this affinity gr oup is a student run group, not CatholicU run, almost questioning

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63 if this was a CatholicU success. Vincent explains the benefits of the Unidos experience on students who are trying to better understand the heritage. He said: Unidos, I think is the main thing for most Latin o students here on campus that like really, you know, allows them to interact with other people or other Latin o students and like really just as she said like it's a different backgrounds or different culture every meetings and things like that. Like that's super helpful, especially for kids that are searching for their identity as a Latin o student or anything like that. Further, Sofia 19 year old undergraduate describes how Unidos fills a campus void in student cul Aside from Unidos , like that's about it. I mean in Unidos is where you see that culture and that stuff celebrated, but outside of that, I don't think I've seen it very much. However, as a group that targets traditional aged students, many of whom live on campus, the timing of programming of Unidos does not always work for adult students or students who commute to campus. Marisa raised this point: T here was like a club or what it's called, but they like do something fo r day of the dead every year, I think. But again, it's like um also people that I know a re commuters that are Hispanic. So, it's like when they do it at 8:00 at night, you're like, I'm not going to stay till 8:00 p.m. when I have nowhere [on campus] to be [until the program starts]. A supportive peer environment can be enhanced by involvement in culturally themed student organization s , and Unidos has proven to be a pivotal group for traditional CatholicU students to connect. While the impact of Unid os was instrumental for traditional students, the groups was not a viable support mechanism for adult students and students who commute.

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64 Supportive faculty, especially those who share a cultural identity or those who positively ural heritage were found to positively influence Latinx CatholicU. Again , it should be noted that none of these factors appear to be intentionally cultivated by CatholicU. Do T raditional U ndergraduates and P ost T raditional U ndergraduates P erceive the C ampus E nvironment S imilarly? The student responses for the themes of bureauc racy, barriers, and successes held true for both traditional aged and adult Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU. However, not all sub themes were universally experienced by all students. Two areas in particular, lack of community and benefits of Unidos st udent group were identified by traditional students but not by adults. This is not unusual considering the majority of adults are themselves commuter students and Unidos is not a group that is designed for nor targeted at adult learners. As such, it is t he traditional undergraduates perceive the CatholicU campus environment similarly. Table 1 below presents the representation of student responses across all subthemes of the similarities and discrepancies acr oss focus groups.

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65 Table II Representation of Latinx students by subthemes and track Subtheme Traditional Aged Latinx Undergraduates Adult Latinx Undergraduates Bureaucracy Registration Issues X X Student Onboarding X X Academic Advisors X X Barriers to Latinx Cultural Engagement Emails Without Action X X Poor Communication or Lack of Latinx Opportunities X X Feelings of Isolation, Alone X X Competitive Rather than Collectivist Orientation X X No Community for Commuters X Faculty Bias and Inability to Address Diversity X X Lack of Relatable Staff and Relevant Programming X X Success Strategies for Latinx Cultural Engagement General Support of Faculty X X Latinx Faculty X X Supportive Non Latinx Faculty X X Other Latinx Students X X Spanish Language X X Unidos Student Group X

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66 Through their participation in one of nine focus groups, 21 Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU identified barriers to their success and strategies that aided in their successful academic and social progression regarding the cultural engagement of the campu s environment. They also identified one additional theme, bureaucratic inefficiencies that did not necessarily relate to their Latinx identity but hindered their basic needs as students preventing them from developing a strong sense of connection at the u niversity. These students did not find the CatholicU campus particularly culturally engaging, identified both barriers and success strategies, and most experiences were in sync among adult and traditional learners.

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67 C HAPTER V DISCUSSION The Latinx population is largest minority in the United States, but students are not completing college at rates comparable to their White counterparts (Gandara & Contreras, 2009 ) . A potential reason for this gap in completion may be that Latinx undergraduates exper ience college environments that are not culturally engaging , which limit s their ability to develop a sense of belonging on the campus. Thirty four percent o f Catholics in the US are Latinx, yet little is known about their perceptions of the Catholic colle ge environment (Contreras, 2016) . The purpose of this research study was to understand how culturally engaging Latinx students at a Catholic university in the Southwest, dubbed CatholicU, found the university environment. This researcher determined that Latinx undergraduates do not find the environment of CatholicU culturally engaging. Students experienced extensive bureaucracies related to enrollment, onboarding and academic advising, and experienced barriers to Latinx cultural engagement evidenced by lack of action following important sentiments from senior leadership, either a lack of opportunities targeted toward Latinx students or poor communication regarding these opportunities. Students also described feelings of isolation, a competitive environm ent, and a faculty and staff who lacked abilities to promote diversity or provide culturally relevant programming. Students did acknowledge supportive aspects related to their Latinx cultural engagement with faculty who were generally helpful, even if the y did not fully acknowledge their Latinx identify. Though these numbers were small, students expressed the significance of taking courses with and mentorship of Latinx faculty, and the importance of non Latinx faculty who acknowledged and valued their cul tural identities. Students appreciated the community they found in other Latinx students and also valued hearing Spanish on the campus.

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68 These findings included the perspectives of both traditional aged and adult Latinx undergraduates, who typically expe rience the academic environment at CatholicU differently from one another. Traditional students tend to enroll in sixteen week semester courses often during the day, while adults tend to enroll in post traditional eight week programs that may be offered o nline or in the evenings. Though students participated in different academic settings, they shared similar cultural experiences regarding the campus environment, with the exception of experiences related to commuter students and with Unidos, a Latinx affi nity student group. Discussion Using the CECE framework, the researcher determined that Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU do not find the campus environment culturally engaging. While much has been written on sense of belonging of Latinx college students in general (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005; Nuñez , 2009), there is little known about those enrolled at Catholic institutions (Contreras, 2016). As such , the findings of this study provided unique insights on the lic institution and advance the higher education literature with this addition. The limited existing research on Latinx Catholic college students has focused on traditional aged Latinx students, those who transitioned to a Catholic university directly from belonging. This study included the perspectives of adult Latinx u ndergraduates, some of whom had previous college experience. In addition, this research specifically addressed the cultural Catholic university setting. Although tradition al and adult students had varying life experiences

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69 prior to enrolling at CatholicU, their perceptions of cultural engagement of the campus environment were consistent in most aspects. Three major themes, bureaucracy, barriers to Latinx cultural engagement , and success strategies for Latinx cultural engagement, produced 16 subthemes in which adults and traditional students differed in only two areas. Traditional students noted an additional barrier for Latinx students who commuted to campus and did not ben efit from the experience of living in residence halls. Because adult undergraduates do not typically live in residence halls, commuting to campus was perceived as an ordinary occurrence rather than a barrier. Additionally, traditional students noted the importance of Unidos, a Latinx focused student group, as a supportive strategy for their success. Unidos targets traditional aged students, not older Latinx students. As such, adult students did not discuss the importance of this student group on their s uccess at CatholicU. This is not to say, however, that adults would not benefit from social and academic groups that were celebratory of their Latinx identity. Rather, that this group was not an opportunity of which they were aware nor targeted as member s. The general agreement between adult and traditional students indicated that regardless of different academic environments sixteen or eight week courses, daytime or evening courses, online or face to face classes both the adult and traditional Latinx st udents perceived a lack of cultural engagement at CatholicU. Perhaps the most eye opening finding associated with this research study was the extent that bureaucratic obstacles hampered the abilities of Latinx students to succeed at CatholicU. Similar to such as the ability to secure necessary courses, adequate onboarding and sufficient academic advising that must be met before they can aspire to developing a sense of belonging on th e college campus. If students perceived the lack of basic support as an indifferent or even hostile,

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70 Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005 ; Nuñez, 2009 nine factors of the CECE model (Museus et al., 2014) and is descriptive of actions that provide support to students in ways that are more significant than simply relaying information. T he sheer number of bureaucratic issues at CatholicU related to this theme proved an overwhelming obsta cle for students. Again, without this foundation it seems impossible for a university to create a culturally engaging environment for Latinx students. Could CatholicU actively support all nine aspects of the CECE model for Latinx students they would achie ve their value of Cura Personalis Care for the Whole Person but this is currently Despite the lack of cultural engagement at CatholicU, students describe bright spots regarding their cultural engagement. Th ey acknowledged faculty who were generally supportive, with specific regard to the importance of taking coursework and mentorship of Latinx faculty, and of non Latinx faculty who acknowledged and valued their cultural identities. Students appreciated the community they found in other Latinx students and valued hearing Spanish spoken on the campus. These finding are consistent with previous research on Latinx students in higher education (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Hurtado & Panjuan, 2005; Nuñez , 2009; Contre ras, 2016; Raphael, et al., 2003). Also consistent with literature (Raphael et al., 2003) was Latinx students discussion of the importance of both their Catholic and Latinx identities, and the positive impacts of faculty, staff and peers from similar or d ifferent backgrounds. Additionally, though students at CatholicU did not find the campus environment culturally engaging they remained enrolled; which is consistent with previous research that distinguishes between student behaviors and their sense of belo nging to the institution ( Hurtado & Carter , 1 997 ; Strayhorn , 2013).

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71 Perhaps, some of the unique findings associated with this study is related to the manner in which the CECE was used. The CECE model was originally developed to secure student responses o n a Likert type scale survey (Museus, Zhang & Kim; 2016). To gain deeper understanding of student perspective on cultural engagement, the researcher selected one question from each of the nine CECE factors and revised them to allow for descriptive convers ation during her focus groups with the students. These responses were then qualitatively coded for themes and findings. As such, the findings of this research study might provide a more rich description of cultural engagement for Latinx students. Implications The Latinx community makes up 34% of the Catholic population nationally and 53% of the local diocese where this study was conducted . Therefore, CatholicU must provide an intentional and engaging enviro nment to Latinx students or potentially f ace diminished enrollment as other universities prioritize Latinx undergraduates. To this end, the researcher recommends that CatholicU minimize s bureaucratic barriers, remove s existing obstacles to Latinx cultural engagement, and expand s opportunities fo r a culturally engaging campus environment for Latinx students. Minimize Bureaucratic Barriers and Meet Basic Student Needs Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU must have their basic needs as students met before cultural engagement can be addressed. Empha sizing the need for proactive philosophies (Museus et al., 2014), CatholicU must minimize its inefficient bureaucracies and institute student focused systems of enrollment. Participants expressed frustration with current registration practices including t heir inability to secure necessary courses , not understanding how to register and the timing of registration. As such, a cademic departments should monitor student

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72 demand for courses and minimiz e course cancellations to help to ensure there are enough seats in the courses students require, at time they want to take them and in the format they need. In addition, the university can p rovide and communicate priority registration for students who are closest to graduating to support their timely completion . Thi s would also mitigate instances of doubling up in an eight week term or taking a capstone course before senior year , frustrations shared by participants in this study . Finally, the university should then m ove away from registration that begins at midnight to a more appropriate time of day . In addition to registration issues, students expressed challenges with backlogged and unavailable advisors, especially since they were reliant on their academic advisor to know which classes they required. To mitigate t hese issues, CatholicU could better communicate the curricular expectations for all baccalaureate degrees so students can easily understand the recommended course sequenc ing necessary for graduation . By providing this information up front, Latinx students , especially adults and traditional aged commuters, can plan out their courses several terms in advance , to mitigate conflicts with other life priorities , and effectively use their time on campus potentially minimizing a frustration shared by students . Onc e the curricular expectations have been better communicated to students, the university can l everage the expertise of academic advisors to provide more holistic student support . Finally, the university should e ngage student voices in the development of t he onboarding process for students who are new to the university . Participants in this study stated that they would like a n onboarding process that provides insight into the academic expectations of CatholicU , such as an introduction to the learning manag ement system , expectations of their chosen classes, and introduction to APA formatting. Further, new student on boarding should meet basi c student needs like teaching them how to register for courses, w hich books to buy, and

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73 how to use a collegiate librar y. Students suggested that onboarding opportunities extend to families students. This could include workshops on financial literacy, scholarship opportunities, and strateg ies for parents and spouses to provide emotional support to their students as they transition to college. This information could be provided in English and Spanish and made available on the website for those who want to support their students but are unable to physically visit the campus. Remove Existing Obstacles and Expand Opportunities that Support a Culturally Engaging Campus Environment Based on the experiences shared by Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU , the barriers and support strategies rela ted to a culturally engaging campus environment are the opposite sides of the same coin. Students lamented the both dearth of faculty who did not acknowledge their Latinx identity and praised the few instances where this did occur. Characteristics of emp loyees, curricular offerings and co curricular programming, and creating physical and virtual spaces that honor their Latinx identity are strategies that would benefit students in a culturally responsive manner. Characteristics of Employees. CatholicU mus t d evelop mandatory cultural competency training for faculty , staff, and administrators. Faculty and staff require a foundational knowledge of the CECE (Museus et al., 2016) and a practical understanding of how to foster cultural engagement . T raining could also be expanded to include practical strategies that encourage challenging cross cultural conversations , that do not tokenize or minimize the experience of Latinx students a desire for such conversations was repeated by participants . Trainings should be mindful of microaggressions (Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000), stereotype threat (Steele,

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74 2011) and center the experiences of students of color by way of critical race theory in Chicana/o education (Yosso, Villalpando, Delgado Bernal & Solórzano, 2001). Finally, CatholicU cannot neglect the development of student staff, such as resi dent assistants and tutors who provide direct service to Latinx students, yet require training to better support Latinx student needs. Additionally, Catholi cU should look to i ncrease the representation of Latinx faculty and staff at the university. Latinx faculty comprise only 5.8% of all CatholicU faculty, compared to 18% of the undergraduate student body. However, the impacts of Fr. Mateo and the few othe r Latinx faculty were incredibly powerful on participants. Though Latinx staff at CatholicU are closer to parity with students at 15.8% of administrators of all levels, only three persons of Latinx heritage are in positions of senior leadership with the au thority to create and influence university policy . As managers in senior leadership they are the leaders of divisions with the authority to establish employee expectations for training and behaviors that can better support Latinx students. Increasing the number of Latinx senior leaders could influence the longer term trajectory of the institution to create more culturally engaging environments for Latinx undergraduates. Additionally, CatholicU leadership should move beyond statements of inclusion (such as those communicated via emails and editorials in the newspaper) and charge appropriate offices to develop and execute action based on leadership priorities. Various students expressed frustration at a lack of action following statements issued by univers ity leaders. Action following these mandates is important to reinforce messages that currently ring shallow with students. To this end, if legislation is proposed or policy development opportunities are created, CatholicU might engage Latinx students to pa rticipate and help craft an appropriate follow through action.

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75 Curricular offerings and co curricular programming . Most students struggled to provide examples of the ways CatholicU helped them to learn about their cultural history and identity. To ach ieve any relevancy in the future, CatholicU must e nsure that the cultural history of Latinx peoples are embedded throughout the curriculum and across all discipline , not simply an add on related to poetry, as was described by students. For example, business courses could integrate deeper discussions regarding the minimum wage to understand the root causes and effects of the working poor and the demographics associated with poverty. Health and medical career courses could embed knowledge regarding la nguage and cultural aspects of Latinx communities so students have the skills to provide excellent care to clients post graduation. As Ernesto noted The sequencin g of these courses is also important. Though CatholicU does require students to take diversity and social justice courses, these courses should be required early in ir degree. As Jaime noted, CatholicU discussions because Latinx students do not have option to opt out of these experiences in their lives. Additionally, as it relates to service learning, faculty require tools to ensure solid preparation and significant debriefing of community service activities, so students recognize the root causes of the need for the serv ice. Latinx students shared concerns of peers exhibiting a white savior or superiority complex when performing service. Should students from dominant communities exhibit a white savior complex, faculty can guide deeper dialog for lasting learning. Studen ts were uncertain if CatholicU was providing cultural programming or simply failing to communicate this programming. In either case, the end result was the same; students

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76 did not participate in relevant cultural programming. The university must ensure div erse co curricular programming exists, is developed with, and is relevant to Latinx students. By working with students, the university will be better able to offer programming that is culturally relevant to Latinx undergraduates. Once these programs are de veloped, they must be effectively publicized across the campus to all audiences, as this programming is valuable to both Latinx and non Latinx communities alike. Based on perspectives shared by students, it appears Latinx students would appreciate activit ies that celebrate their Catholic and Latinx identity, are family friendly, and support their academic and social needs. The Catholic identity was the primary reason students reported for choosing to attend CatholicU. This university might consider est ablishing culturally relevant traditions that celebrate the intersection of religious and cultural identity. For example offering mass in Spanish and creating a family friendly annual church festival or bazaar with food, music, games and culture of both tr aditions. This bazaar can be used to promote relevant student clubs so Latinx students can engage in meaningful ways throughout the year, not simply at one annual event. This celebration can be a way for Latinx students to meet other students, faculty, a nd staff with similar interests, and showcase the beauty of Latinx culture to others. Because traditions and feelings of isolation and help to develop a stronge r sense of community. Latinx students indicated a desire for student clubs and organizations that recognized and celebrated both their Latinx identity and their chosen field of study. These clubs, such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, should have active and culturally appropriate advisors to establish, support programming that extends beyond Hispanic Heritage Month, and create networking opportunities for students to connect across the campus. In addition, Latinx

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77 students felt a need to support underclass students. The expansion of Latinx student groups could facilitate professional networking opportunities that leverage the expertise and real world experience upperclass students a nd alumni to help lowerclass students in understanding how to balance personal and academic obligations and strategies for navigating their chosen profession. Further, these student groups could also leverage strengths, passions, and experience of current undergraduates to support new students in their transition to CatholicU. Physical and Virtual Spaces. Latinx students who lived on campus had a difficult time developing community, and for those who commuted or took courses in the evening, the ability to (Gutierrez, 2008) on the campus, specifically designed for them, as many were displaced with the loss of the commuter lounge in a recent remodel. This area should visibly support Latinx students with culturally relevant artwork, music and food. Additionally, this space could possibly help those who take night or summer classes and do not currently have food options available on campus. Student leaders from Unidos c ould be encouraged to program in this space. This area could facilitate peer mentorship and build off the Latinx value of community, rather than the competitive academic and social environment that currently exists at CatholicU. Latinx students also des cribed a desire for a virtual space, one go to location on the website and/or student portal that serves as an academic and social calendar that identifies general campus activities, registration and financial deadlines, and events that are targeted to Lat inx students. This website can also identify action following important emails from university leadership by providing updates to strategies, programs and policies that demonstrate follow through. This website could be promoted on CatholicU social media outlets so currently

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78 enrolled students, prospective students and community are aware of the actions and events that Limitations While unique and significant findings regarding the cultural engagement of CatholicU were identified by the participants, limitations to the study also existed. This research was performed at a single Catholic university in the southwestern United States and circumstances may differ at other institutions. Further, only undergraduate students who had persisted at CatholicU were interviewed; the researcher does not know the experiences of students who may have stopped out or been forced out, or those who wer e enrolled at the masters and doctoral levels. Additionally, female participants were the majority of respondents and an increase in male responses might have produced other results. All f ocus groups were conducted in person, this process did not allow f or student responses from those who may have preferred to participate virtually or were unable to physically come to campus, such as those taking online courses out of state. Though students did mention identities other than their Latinx heritage, this pr otocol did not go into depth on the intersection of other identities such as Latin American origin (such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Guatemalan), gender, race, immigrant status, LGBTQIA, skin color or socioeconomic status. Finally, though students did se em comfortable sharing their stories, and were excited someone from the university was interested in their experiences, it is possible that my position as an administrator at CatholicU may have prevented some students from participating honestly or may hav e dissuaded non participants from taking part in the research. Future Research While this was a significant step in understanding the experiences of Latinx undergraduates at CatholicU, there are several other areas of potential research. Building

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79 cultura l competency training for faculty and staff at CatholicU is an important and necessary future endeavor. Future research might focus on the impact cultural competence training for faculty and staff has on the experiences of Latinx undergraduates. Addition ally, research is needed to further the understanding of Latinx students at other Catholic universities both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, to provide further insight into ways Catholic institutions are collectively serving this important studen t demographic. Also, outreach to students who have disenrolled from CatholicU or other Catholic universities could provide insight into the circumstances that lead them to depart the university. Because the tuition level at private colleges can be prohib itive, expanding research into the socioeconomic status of Latinx students and the ability of this or other Catholic universities to financially support lower income or undocumented students might also be relevant areas of future research. Conclusion Alt hough additional research is necessary to expand on the findings of this study, the narratives provided by Latinx students at CatholicU have provided insight into the cultural engagement of the campus environment. The research determined students do not f ind CatholicU culturally engaging. However, now that the university is aware of this status , CatholicU can capitalize on what is working for students, eliminate barriers for students, and implement strategies, policies and programs to better support posit ive outcomes of Latin x students.

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80 REFERENCES Askenas, J., Park, H., & Pearce, A. (2017, August 24). Even with Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago. New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from h ttps://www.ny times.com/interactive/2017/08/24/us/affirmative action.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story heading&module=photo spot region®ion=top news&WT.nav=top news&_r=1 Bollen, K. A., & Hoyle, R. H. (1990). Perceived cohesion: A conceptual and empirical examination. Social Forces, 69 (2), 479 504. doi:10.1093/sf/69.2.479 C ontreras, F. (2016). Latinx students in catholic postsecondary institutions. Journal of Catholic Education, 19(2), 81. Doi:10.153.65/joce.1902052016 Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2017). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches . Sage publications. Creswell, J. W., & Miller, D. L. (2000). Determining validity in qualitative inquiry. Theory into practice , 39 (3), 124 130. Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry & research design. Choosing among five approaches . Sage publications. Gandara , P. C., & Contreras, F. (2009). The Latinx Education Crisis: The consequences of failed social policies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Garcia, J.A. (2016). 2016 Legislative report on the postsecondary progress and success of high school graduates. Denver, CO: Colorado Department of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://highered.colorado.gov/Publications/Reports/Legislative/PostSecondary/2016_Posts econdary_Progress_rel20160304.pdf Gutiérrez, K. D. (2008). Developing a sociocritical literacy in the third space. Reading research quarterly , 43 (2), 148 164. Hausmann, L. R. M., Schofield, J. W., & Woods, R. L. (2007). Sense of belonging as a predictor of intentions to persist among African American and White first year college students. Research in Higher Education, 48 (7), 803 839. Hurtado, S. (1992). The campus racial climate: Contexts of conflict. The Journal of Higher Education, 63 (5), 539 569. Hurtado, S. (1994). The institutional climate for talented Latinx students. Research in Higher Education, 35 (1), 21 41. doi:10.1007/BF02496660

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81 Hurtado, S., Alvarez, C. L., Guillermo Wann, C., Cuellar, M., & Arellano, L. (2012). A model for diverse learning environments. In Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 41 122). Springer, Dordrecht. Hurtado, S., & Carter, D. (1997). Effects of college transition and perceptions of the campus racial climate on Latinx college students' sense of belonging. Sociology of Education, 70 (4), 324 345. doi:10.2307/2673270 Hurtado, S., & Ponjuan, L. (2005). Latinx educational outcomes and the campus climate. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education , 4 (3), 235 251. Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review. 50 (4): 370 96. doi:10.1037/h0054346 via psychclassics.yorku.ca. Museus S.D. (2014) The culturally engaging campus environments (CECE) mo del: A new theory of success among racially diverse college student populations. In: Paulsen M. (eds) Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research , vol 29. Springer, Dordrecht Museus, S. D., Nichols, A. H., & Lambert, A. D. (2008). Racial differences in the effects of campus racial climate on degree completion: A structural equation model. The Review of Higher Education , 32 (1), 107 134. Museus, S. D. & Yi, V. & Saelua, N. (2017). The impact of culturally engaging campus environments on sense of belonging. The Review of Higher Education 40(2), 187 215. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved June 8, 2017, from Project MUSE database. Museus, S. D., Zhang, D., & Kim, M. J. (2016). Developing and Evaluating the Culturally Engaging Campus Envir onments (CECE) Scale: An Examination of Content and Construct Validity. Research in Higher Education , 57 (6), 768 793. National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Indicator 21: postsecondary graduation rates. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp Nuñez, A. ( 2 009). A critical paradox? predictors of Latinx students' sense of belonging in college. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2 (1), 46 61. doi:http://0 dx.doi.org.skyline.ucdenver.edu/10.1037/a0014099 Raphael, L. M., Pressley, M., & Kane, J. (2013). Catholic higher education and Latinx (a) students: Exploring the experience of university undergraduates. Journal of Catholic Education , 7 (2), 5. Salda ñ a, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

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82 Santos, J. L., & Acevedo public universities: A trend analysis of faculty, students, and executives in the CSU and UC sys tems. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education , 12 (2), 174 200. Sedlacek, W. E., Fuertes, J. N. (1993). Barriers to the leadership development of Hispanics in higher education. NASPA Journal, 30(4), 277 283. G oogle Scholar Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Huie, F., Wakhungu, P.K., Yuan, X., Nathan, A. & Bhimdiwali, A. (2017, December). Completing college: A national view of student completion rates fall 2011 cohort (Signature Report No. 14). Herndon, VA: National S tudent Clearinghouse Research Center. Solorzano, D. G, & Delgado Bernal, D. (2001). Critical Race Theory and Transformational Resistance: Chicana/o Students in an Urban Context. Urban Education , 36(3). Spady, W. G. (1970). Dropouts from higher education: An interdisciplinary review and synthesis. Interchange , 1 (1), 64 85. Steele, C. M. (2011). Whistling Vivaldi: And other clues to how stereotypes affect us (issues of our time) . WW Norton & Company. Strayhorn, T. L. (2013). Theoretical frameworks in college student research. University Press of America Tierney, W. G. (1992). An anthropological analysis of student participation in college. The Journal of Higher Education, 63 (6), 603 618. Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45 (1), 89 125. doi:10.2307/1170024 Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago; London; University of Chicago Press. Tinto, V. (2006). Research and practice of student retention: What next? Journal of College Student Retention, 8 (1), 1 19. doi:10.2190/4YNU4TMB 22DJ AN4W Umbach, P. (2006). The Contribution of Faculty of Color to Undergraduate Education. R esearch in Higher Education, 47 (3), 317 345. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.aurarialibrary.idm.oclc.org/stable/40197402 United States Census Bureau. (2017). Facts for Features: Hispanic Heritage Month 2017. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts for features/2017/hispanic heritage.html U.S. Department The Condition of (NCES 2017 Characteristics of Postsecondary Faculty .

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83 Yosso, T., Villalpando, O., Del gado Bernal, D., & Solórzano, D. G. (2001). Critical race theory in Chicana/o education. Yin, R. K. (2017). Case study research and applications: Design and methods . Sage publications. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Retrieved from https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm binaries/24737_Chapter_5.pdf Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study re search: Design and methods (3rd ed.) . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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84 A PPENDIX A Dear M arisa , Help us make CatholicU a better place by giving your opinion in a research study. CatholicU is seeking undergraduates to participate in one of six focus groups to provide insight on the campus environment. Our goal is to learn what we are doing well and how to improve our campus for Latinx students. Participation is voluntary, and feedback is co nfidential. Each focus group will be conducted on the 4 th floor of [building] and last approximately ninety minutes. Each participant will receive a $20 Visa gift card upon successful completion of the focus group. Only 30 slots are available, and the researcher is seeking Latinx undergraduates of all ages and m ajors. Below are the dates of the focus groups, which are open to only 5 students each: Thursday, July 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in [building] room 407 Monday, July 23 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in [building] room 407 Tuesday, July 24 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in [building] room 407 To reserve your slot and confirm your eligibility, please email researcher Judi Diaz Bonacquisti at email@email.edu with your name, major, year in school, and preferred date of foc us group. Judi will email you additional details of the focus group and will send you a consent form to participate. To learn more about the researcher, please visit her LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin. com/in/judidiazbonacquisti/ . Thank you for your consideration. The information you provide will help CatholicU create a more inclusive campus environment. Judi A. Diaz Bonacquisti CatholicU Signature Block

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85 A PPENDIX B 1. Do you work, and if so, how many hours per week do you work, on or off campus? 2. What was the racial make up of your previous institution (high school or community college), and how did that impact your transition to CatholicU ? 3. How easy is it for Latinx students to find and interact with p eople on campus with similar backgrounds? (cultural familiarity) 4. What are ways that CatholicU helps Latinx s to learn about their cultural history and identity? (culturally relevant knowledge) 5. How does CatholicU provide opportunities to help improve the lives of Latinx s, or solve problems in the Latinx Community? (cultural community service) 6. How does CatholicU demonstrate that Latinx students' culture is valued on campus? (cultural validation) 7. How does Catholic U provide enough opportunities to discuss important social issues with people of different cultural backgrounds? (cross cultural engagement) 8. How do faculty and staff demonstrate that they are committed to Latinx student success? (humanized educational e nvironments) 9. Do you believe people on this campus help each other succeed? Why or why not? (collectivist cultural orientation) 10. Do employees at CatholicU send you important information (resources, learning opportunities) or do you have to seek that out? ( proactive philosophies) 11. If you have a problem or need information do you know of a person on campus that you can trust to help solve the problem? How did you find that person? (holistic support) 12. What can CatholicU do to improve the campus environment for Latinx students?

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86 A PPENDIX C Consent form What this study is about You are being invited to participate in a focus group to understand your experience as a Latinx undergraduate at CatholicU . This form will provide you with information about the study. deciding whether or not to take part. You are being asked to be in the study because your respons es can help the researcher better understand your campus environment and how to improve it. Possible risks Participation in the survey is associated with minimal potential risks, though is it possible you may experience some risk even when the researcher s are careful to avoid them. The primary risk associated with the study is the emergence of negative or distress feelings in answering questions. You do not have to answer any question if you do not want to answer them and you may stop participating in t he f ocus group anytime. Confidentiality The researcher will make every effort to keep your responses confidential, although absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. No information associated with your name will ever be released publicly the personal identifiable responses may be inspected by University and government organization when required by law. Participating in the Focus Group The focus group will include questions about your background, your experiences, and the environment of the campus. It will take about 90 minutes to complete. Your participation is completely voluntary and your feedback is confidential. If you decide to participate now you may change your mind stop at any time and declining participation or not completing the survey will not result in any penalty. Study cost and compensation You will not be expected to pay any cost related to study and you will be awarded a $20 Visa gift card upon participation and successful completion of the focus group. If you agree to take part in th e study there will be no direct benefit to you. However, the results of this focus group will be used to help the researcher understand how to improve the college experience on this campus. Your honest answers are important to understand how to improve t he undergraduate experience for Latinx students. Please help by participating in the focus group.

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87 Consent to take part in research I understand that even if I agree to participate now, I can withdraw at any time or refuse to answer any question without any consequences of any kind. I understand that I can withdraw permission to use data from my interview within two weeks after the interview, in which case the material will be deleted. I have had the purpose and nature of the study explained to me in writing and I have had the opportunity to ask questions about the study. I understand that participation involves answering ques tions during a 90 minute focus group with other students. I understand that I will not benefit directly from participating in this research. I agree to my interview being audio and video recorded. I understand that all information I provide for th is study will be treated confidentially. I understand that in any report on the results of this research my identity will remain anonymous. This will be done by changing my name and disguising any details of my interview which may reveal my identity or the identity of people I speak about. dissertation, and perhaps conference presentations or published papers. I understand that if I inform the researcher that m yself or someone else is at risk of harm they may have to report this to the relevant authorities they will discuss this with me first but may be required to report with or without my permission. I understand that signed consent forms and original aud io and video recordings will be retained drive until the exam board confirms the results of her dissertation. I understand that a transcript of my interview in which all identifying information has been removed will be retained for two years from the date of the exam board. I understand that under freedom of information legalisation I am entitled to access the information I have provided at any time while it is in storage as specified above. I understand that I am free to contact any of the people involved in the research to seek further clarification and information. Judi Diaz Bonacquisti Doctoral Candidat e, University of Colorado at Denver CatholicU Signature Block

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88 Carlos P. Hipolito Delgado, Ph.D Associate Professor University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development |Counseling 303 315 0073 (office) carlos.hipolito@ucdenver.edu Signature of research participant -------------------------------------------------------Signature of participant Date Signature of resear cher I believe the participant is giving informed consent to participate in this study --------------------------------------------------------------Signature of researcher Date