Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph Stetar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Angelica Perez-Litwin, Ph.D.


Student Affairs, Higher Education, Latina, Microaggressions, Midlevel Administrator


Student Affairs serves as a viable career option for professionals working in higher education, including Latinas, who have increasingly entered as undergraduate students and found careers in student affairs. Latinas seem to be bottlenecked at midlevel, with few advancing to senior level leadership positions. According to the literature, negative work experiences and barriers related to identity have impacted advancement opportunities for Latina administrators. This qualitative study employed the methodology of narrative inquiry. Interviews were conducted with 26 participants selected by purposeful sampling of Latina professionals holding midlevel positions in student affairs. Data was analyzed using traditional coding methods of constant comparison and classical content analysis to identify overarching themes. The analytical framework was guided by components of Critical Race Theory (CRT), Latino Critical Race Theory (LatCrit) and Critical Race Feminism (CRF), all contributing to placing the intersectionality of marginalized identities in context of higher education. Top themes that emerged were: (1) Latinas Find a Natural Fit in Student Affairs, feeling positive at the beginning of their careers. They were chosen as they brought valued and distinctive qualities to contribute to diversity at their institutions. (2) Latinas Move from Natural Fit to Misfit. They realized they were tokens as they were boxed into diversity roles, experienced microaggressions and were denied opportunities for promotion due to intersections of gender, race, and ethnicity. (3) High Aspirations Diminished by Barriers to Advancement. Expressing high career aspirations, Latinas experienced professional and personal barriers limiting opportunities, causing diminished hopes for advancement. Implications for practice are discussed, including suggestions for institutions, strategies for improving campus climates to better foster Latina professional capabilities and supportive advice for Latinas as they navigate careers in higher education.