Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Deborah Faye Carter

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Dina C. Maramba

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Linda Perkins

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© Copyright Fanny Cisneros, 2021 All Rights reserved


While attending a highly selective institution provides for greater support and services, the experiences of Latinx college students within this context have not been fully studied. Only recently has the collegiate success of first-generation Latinx college students become a focal point of discussion in the research; however, less research has emphasized Latinx students at top-tier institutions and what influences their overall success. A qualitative narrative approach was employed to examine key experiences and relationships and and social networks aided the persistence and validation of first-generation Latinx college students while attending a highly selective institution. The theoretical constructs of institutional agents/social capital and validation were utilized as critical lenses to examine the undergraduate experiences of first-generation Latinx college students and help explicate how access to key individuals and meaningful relationships had a positive impact on persisting at the collegiate level. Qualitative data was collected from 13 campus interviews with first-generation Latinx college students attending a highly selective, private postsecondary institution. Additional data was collected from a demographic survey and interview notes. Results from this study highlight that family, peers, and key institutional agents such as administrative staff, faculty and advisors were a salient influence on the persistence and validation of first-generation Latinx college students. Participants sought ways to connect with others on campus that shared their values, beliefs, and interests. They indicated that college experiences centered around community service, activism and advocacy as well as cultural connection were noteworthy as well and influential in their overall success. Participants in this study gravitated towards student organizations and activities which focused on helping others, making a difference, building communities well as broaden their scope, perspective, and possibilities. Implications for research and practice indicate that institutional practices and programming must be strengthened to ensure that first-generation college students feel connected and validated on a highly selective institution. In addition, future research must focus on the varied social networks that these students access for successful completion of their college degree.