Retention of Rural Latina College Students, Engaging Strategic Leadership: A Chicana Feminist Theory Perspective on Retention

Retention of Rural Latina College Students, Engaging Strategic Leadership: A Chicana Feminist Theory Perspective on Retention

Theresa D. Neimann (Oregon State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch041
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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to understand how the contextual complexities between Chicana feminist theory help leaders of higher education understand Latina retention in rural colleges and what Latina women encounter in their college experience. Despite the vast amounts of research that is known about the barriers they face in urban colleges (AACC, 2012; Biswas, 2005; ETS, 2007; NWLC, 2012; Payne & Fogerty, 2007), little is known about how a rural context affects the barriers and what works for Latinas that attend rural colleges. The purpose of the chapter is to learn from the literature review and from personal testimonials of what works and what these barriers to retention are and how administrators, and college personnel can better assist this population which will help Latinas succeed in rural colleges. This research is significant as a growing number of first generation Latina women are seeking a college education (Excelencia, 2010; McPhail, 2011; Santiago & Callen, 2010). This will have implications in the future of their lives and the future of higher education institutional policy, and not the least the future economic success of Latinas and how they view themselves as part of a positive college going experience (Cavazos, Johnson, & Sparrow, 2010; Gloria & Castellanos, 2012).
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Introduction

From their inception, America’s rural colleges have espoused the ideal that higher education should be accessible to everyone. However, we know that not everyone has equal access (Santiago & Callen, 2010). The Latina population is a group that is failing in tertiary education; there are multiple studies that tell us why they fail, but this chapter focuses on the rural-Chicana feminist connection to their barriers and discusses what is essential for Latinas to be successful in colleges and universities where statistics tell us Latinas face even greater challenges succeeding in rural colleges. This chapter explores issues and challenges and coping mechanisms that Latinas face in rural communities, and summons the need for change in rural colleges in order to accommodate the unique needs of these students. Understanding the rural college-going participatory experiences of the Latina student population and college personnel capitalizing on what is working for Latinas are essential in order for Latina women to be involved in a positive college-going experience.

The contribution this chapter adds to scholarship is based on the understanding of how rural factors intersect with cultural complexities and gendered-identity needs of Latina rural college-going students, from a Chicana feminist perspective. Rural institutions of higher education will be able to use the results of this research in order to attract Latina students and support their college-going experiences with culturally appropriate services and resources.

We know the Latino/a population is increasing; by 2050, Latinos/as are projected to represent 24.3% of the U.S. population (NCES, 2003). The total population of Latinos in the United States is approximately 17%, K-12 population is approximately 22% Latino, the median age for Latinos is 27, compared to 42 for White non-Hispanics. Approximately 20% of Latino adults (25 and older) had earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 36% of all adults. The college graduation rate is 41% of Latino students that graduated within 150% of program time for first-time, full-time freshmen, compared to 50% of all students (Excelencia, 2015).

In spite of the population growth, Mexican-Americans are the largest Latin American subgroup (65%) in the United States and are the least likely to go to college (ETS, 2007; Excelencia, 2014; Iturbide, Raffaelli & Gustavo, 2009). Nationally, of those, only 10% of Latina women completed four or more years of college, compared with 13.9% of Blacks and 22.3% of Whites, according to the National Council of La Raza, an umbrella organization for Hispanic groups (2014).

Among the nation’s Latinas, rural Latinas are the least likely to attend college. In order to increase the retention and success rates of Latina rural community college students, colleges in rural areas must make it possible for more Latinas to attend and have a positive higher education experience. Academicians need to understand what factors detract from and/or enhance the college experience for Latinas in rural community colleges.

More Latinas live in rural than urban areas, and many colleges are situated in rural communities, (Excelencia, 2010, 2014; Immigration Policy Center, 2011). According to Carsey Institute (Saenz, 2008), nearly 3.2 million Latinos live in rural areas of the United States, comprising 6.3 percent of the nation’s nonurban inhabitants. Latino educational completion is crucial because their educational achievement is lower than other groups (only 19 percent of Latino adults have earned an associate or higher) and the Latino population is rapidly expanding. By 2020, Latinos are projected to represent about 20 percent of the 18-64 year-old U.S. population, compared to 15 percent in 2008; by 2020 Latinos are projected to represent close to 25 percent of the U.S. 18-29 year-old population, up from 18 percent in 2008. Therefore, the higher education of rural Latinas is imperative to the attainment of this goal (Santiago & Callen, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Familial: Refers to a family and its members and can include the extended family as well.

Marianismo: A Spanish term stemming from Virgin Mary ideology/theology. It emphasizes the myth of the submissive role of the ideal Latina woman as primarily that of caregiver and homemaker and is self-sacrificingly loyal to her immediate and extended family ( Sy & Romero, 2008 ).

Lived Experience: As the title and research suggest, the focus of this study stresses the experiences of rural community college-going students as they are lived ( Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007 ). Specifically, this means that research emphasizes the stories of Latinas as they experience their first year of college, paying attention to time, context, and place ( Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007 ).

Dominant Culture: Refers to European American culture, which has had a hegemonic monopoly and as a result is embedded within most American institutions.

Postcolonial: Refers to approaches of intellectual dialogue that analyze, describe, and react to the cultural legacies of colonialism and of imperialism.

Mestiza: A mixture of more than one culture and identity, in this study it refers to the Latina American-Mexican woman, who may also identify with additional ethnicities and races.

Machismo: Due to the repeated colonization of Mexico and other Latin American countries, the spiritual and physical power of the Latino male has been stripped leaving him feeling weak and powerless. He has been unable to protect his people especially his family. As a result he has developed a strong sense of masculinity as compensation for these feelings (Mirande & Enriquez, 1979 AU184: The in-text citation "Mirande & Enriquez, 1979" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Cultural Capital: The model of community cultural wealth made up by types of capital such as, but not limited to: 1) Aspirational capital, 2) Linguistic capital, 3) Familial capital, 4) Social capital, 5) Navigational capital, and 6) Resistant capital ( Yosso, Smith, Ceja & Solórzano, 2009 ).

Conscientizacao: Refers to the critical awareness of various cognitive negotiations.

Chicana: Refers to a Mexican-American female who was raised in the United States. Chicana feminist refers to a sisterhood belonging among Latinas, and a strong mother-daughter bond. It also advocates for women’s rights and the rights for their children in education, clean and safe housing, jobs and safety for their husbands and medical benefits for their families ( Cotera, 1977 ; Espin, 1997 AU180: The citation "Espin, 1997" matches the reference "Espín, 1997", but an accent or apostrophe is different. ; Garcia, 1997 ). Chicana feminist consciousness grew from a struggle for equality with Chicano men and displeasure with Chicanas’ prescribed role in la familia ; women question the role that they are assigned within the family. The words Chicana and Latina are used interchangeably throughout this chapter to refer to women with Mexican ancestry.

Ethnicity: Refers to cultural factors, including nationality, regional culture, ancestry, and language. Race, however, refers to a person's physical characteristics, such as bone structure and skin, hair, or eye color. An example of race is brown, white, or black skin (all from various parts of the world), while an example of ethnicity is German or Spanish ancestry (regardless of race).

Intersectionality: The examination of, but not limited to, race, sex, class, national origin, rurality, and sexual orientation, and how these various combinations play out in various settings (UCLA School of Public Affairs: Critical Race Studies, 2014 AU182: The in-text citation "Critical Race Studies, 2014" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Latina: The term Latina can refer to a non-homogenous [racial] group of persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, and/or South American heritage, as noted from the UCLA School of Public Affairs: Critical Race Studies, (2014) AU183: The in-text citation "Race Studies, (2014)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. . For the purposes of this study, the Latina participants utilized in this study or their parents have crossed the Mexican-American border, and are of Mexican origin and are also referred to as Chicana in this chapter.

Race: Refers to a person's physical characteristics, such as bone structure and skin, hair, or eye color; ethnicity, however, refers to cultural factors, including nationality, regional culture, ancestry, and language. An example of race is brown, white, or black skin (all from various parts of the world), while an example of ethnicity is German or Spanish ancestry.

Mestizaje: Refers to the blending of cultures creating various genetic strains, for example not exclusively Mexican, North American Indian, Spaniard, and Aztec genes but also Texan ( Anzaldúa, 1999 ). Today there exists even more intermixing of the gene pool to include other ethnic genes as well.

Underserved population: Refers to populations that face barriers and challenges in accessing and using resources, due to geographic location, religion, sexual orientation, gendered-identity, racial, and ethnic populations. Underserved populations usually encounter unique challenges (such as language and cultural barriers, physical and/or cognitive ability, alienage status, or age).

Cultural Competency: Demonstrated by incorporating, at all levels, the organization of the following: the importance of culture; the assessment of cross-cultural relations; including vigilance towards the dynamics that result from cultural differences; the expansion of cultural knowledge, and the adaptation of services to meet culturally specific needs ( Cross, Bazron, Dennis & Isaacs 1989 ).

Economic Refugee: Refers to the massive migration from the territories of Mexico to the U.S.; the devaluation of the peso made advantageous trading arrangement on the American side, but left Mexican businesses impoverished. Thus, the migration north became one of survival ( Fuentes, 1997 ).

Decolonizing: Refers to the process of becoming self-governing and independent thinking from the dominant culture.

Familismo: A cultural value integrated within the Latina psyche, emphasizing family loyalty, responsibility, and closeness, requiring Latina women to put the needs of their family before their individual self-actualization needs ( Sy & Romero, 2008 ).

Rural: Defined by a remote area. The U.S. Census defines rural territory as more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and also more than 10 miles from an urban college ( Goreham, 2008 ; National Center for Education Statistic, 2006 AU185: The in-text citation "National Center for Education Statistic, 2006" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). These definitions are based on public school data. Therefore, this review defines rural students based upon where they live in relation to an urban area.

First-Generation Status: National data on students who are the first in their family to attend college has shown that these students are at a distinct disadvantage in accessing and succeeding in institutions of higher education (Chen, 2005 AU181: The in-text citation "Chen, 2005" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

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