Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Rose, Amy D.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Mexican American college students--Illinois--Case studies; Women college students--Illinois--Case studies; Community college students--Illinois--Case studies


The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the experiences of the traditional-age, first-generation, Mexican American female as a student in a community college. Basic interpretive qualitative research provides a snapshot of participants’ lives from their point of view. Through semistructured interviews 17 participants, ages 18 to 25, describe their experiences and future plans. The analysis is divided thematically into three chapters. The first theme, constructing the self, centers on identity and independence. Rather than seeking total emotional and physical independence, participants acknowledge college years as a transition time between living at home and being monetarily supported and eventually living away from parents as married women. The social world is grounded in strong familial ties with parents and siblings and much less relationship building outside of the family. Friends are more commonly relatives like the sisters, Berta and Lily, who are interviewed together. The second theme, exploring life choices, describes the process of choosing an occupation. As most parents of the participants have no experience with academia, a special role of older siblings is to serve as a role model and trailblazer for younger family members. For some, an advisor substitutes for an older sibling by providing informal guidance. The third theme, the influential constructs of society and history, brings in issues of racism, ethnicism, and gender. Influences of racism and ethnicism are described through the lenses of individual experiences. The link to the past and future is a desire to rise not from their personal circumstances but from the circumstances experienced by their parents of being underprivileged. Living in the United States illegally and taking English as Second Language (ESL) classes influence their ethnic identity. Participants develop an ethic of caring to aid others in similar circumstances and an ethic of justice to rectify the inequities experienced as Mexicans. Topics around gender are roles and expectations, sexuality, and teen pregnancy. Messages about sexuality for Mexicans are aligned with respect for women. The self-respect of Mexican gendered ethnicity and the possibilities of Americanized “freedom” provoke discord.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [356]-371).


xvi, 380 pages




Northern Illinois University

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