The campus climate of a border HSI : redefining Latino student success
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The number of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) is on the rise. Research suggests that institutions designated as HSIs graduate over fifty percent of Latinos enrolled in college (Santiago, 2006). However, few studies have examined the campus climate of HSIs and how such climate may influence the degree attainment of first-generation, Mexican American students. Considering the instrumental role HSIs have had in advancing the number of Latinos in postsecondary education, this study investigates the campus climate of an HSI along the U.S.-Mexico Border. By utilizing the theoretical frameworks of funds of knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff & Gonzalez, 1992) and organizational habitus (McDonough, 1997) this qualitative study involved first-generation, Mexican American students, faculty, and administrators from the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA). Data collection methods included: student focus groups, individual interviews, observations, reflective notes and a review of relevant documents. Instrumentation used for this study incorporated a student questionnaire as well as pre-established interview questions. Findings revealed students’ perceptions of a Border HSIs, the experiences they describe as helpful in allowing them to obtain a degree; and the institutional characteristics faculty and administrators found critical in allowing first-generation, Mexican American students to persist. This study builds upon a pilot conducted in 2009-2010, that assessed Latino students’ perceptions of HSIs. The goal of this study is 1) to contribute to the literature on first-generation, Mexican American student success and 2) to further enrich our knowledge about the campus climate of Border HSIs and their role in degree attainment of Latinos.