Date of Degree


Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)


Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


Mac, Jacqueline

Committee Members

Hutchings, Quortne; Nyunt, Gudrun


Hispanic, Latino, LatCrit, higher education, Hispanic Serving Institution, phenomenology, Midwest, emerging HSI, public



There are a growing number of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) and emerging Hispanic Serving Institutions (eHSI) across the United States (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, 2013a, 2013b, 2022). Because many HSIs and eHSIs are either formerly or still also Predominantly White Institutions (PWI), historical policies and practices within institutions of higher education do not routinely consider the lives of Latino/a/x students. In addition, HSIs are not required to have any portion of their mission dedicated to the advancement of Latino/a/x students as part of the HSI designation.

There is mounting literature that indicates Latino/a/x students are more successful and feel supported when universities embrace their Latino/a/x culture (Cramblet Alvarez et al., 2021; Cuellar & Johnson-Ahorlu, 2020; Dayton et al., 2004; Garcia, 2016; Medina & Posadas, 2012; Sanford et al., 2019). However, Latino/a/x students often experience challenges related to their culture, such as language barriers, skin color, the immigration status of themselves or their family members, and culturally related familial challenges. These challenges are often overshadowed by the eHSI having formerly been a PWI or concurrently a PWI and eHSI.

Therefore, this phenomenological research study examines the essence of how Latino/a/x students feel best served by their four-year eHSI, which is also a PWI in the Midwestern United States. Participants currently enrolled at eHSIs in the Midwestern United States were interviewed to understand their lived experiences on campus.

The phenomenon described as “Unexpected Inclusion” was identified in this study. Participants were surprised that anyone would be interested in including them, their families, and their culture in the everyday planning of the university operations. This surprise partially stemmed from their educational experiences up to the point of the university being a space where they needed to assimilate into a predominantly white, English-speaking, mainstream education. When participants did feel that their culture was included in their university, they were overly appreciative and pleasantly surprised.

The research discovered five findings that emerged. The first finding was students had no expectations of support from their schools, which was formed largely by previous schooling experiences. Second, although students did not have expectations of support, they still found the importance of representation of their identities and culture at the university. Third students articulated that supporting them meant also supporting their families. Fourth, students found a sense of community when there was a place that made it easy to ask for help. Finally, students more readily experienced a sense of community at their eHSI when there were connections to their Latino/a/x identity and cultural appreciation. Within all of the themes, the need for a Latino Resource Center was a conduit to all things that mattered to students at an eHSI in the Midwest.


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