Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Patricia Davis-Wiley

Committee Members

Amos Hatch, Ilona Leki, Barbara Thayer-Bacon


This qualitative case study collection followed 4 self-identified college-bound Mexican immigrants as they moved from their senior year of high school through their first semester of college. The purpose of this study was to learn about the young women’s aspirations and expectations and how their aspirations and expectations were or were not in harmony with the actuality of their lives.

To meet this goal, the researcher interviewed the female participants three times. These interviews took place in high school and the first semester of college. The researcher began each interview with a predetermined list of questions, and added additional questions that were generated by the participant’s responses. Next, the researcher reviewed the participants’ transcripts and cumulative files and the transcripts of the interviews in order to conduct qualitative data analysis to find themes that were salient to the participants’ lives. The researcher described the salient themes for each of the individual participants by telling their individual stories. After writing the participant’s individual story, the researcher again met with the participant, so she could read the story and provide additional insights. Using the same data analysis process as with the individual cases, the researcher found themes that were germane across the case studies. The effectiveness of support from significant others, the value of helping people, the effects of racism, the development and maintenance of a Mexican identity, and the importance of marriage emerged as themes that were relevant across the four cases.

This study adds to the body of literature that details the aspirations that are held by Mexican students, and it adds to the corpus of research that attempts to provide reasons for why this particular population may encounter more or different types of obstacles than the typical high school senior or first-year college student. All 4 of the participants saw themselves as college-bound during their senior year of high school, and all had utilized various strategies (i.e. maintaining a high GPA, taking college entrance exams, attending college workshops targeted for the Hispanic population, and applying to several colleges) to make this goal a reality. While all 4 of the participants began college immediately following high school, financial difficulties stemming from current or previous undocumented status proved to be an obstacle that was quite difficult to circumvent.

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