Underrepresented and In/visible: A Hispanic First-Generation Student’s Narratives of College

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Abstract

Despite improvements in the rates of college admission over the past few decades, college persistence, retention, and graduation rates continue to be problematic for underrepresented students—students of color and students from low-income and/or first-generation families. This article presents a case study of a female, first-generation, low-income Hispanic student during her 1st year at a highly selective, private, predominantly White university. Drawing on critical race theory and qualitative research methodologies, it explores and understands key incidents prior to matriculation and throughout 2 semesters, focusing on those connected to racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic identities, as well as social and academic interactions and relationships. It recenters discussion on the lived experiences and insider’s perspectives of a historically marginalized student, stories often omitted from the research or hidden within the broader statistics on success and failure. Using the metaphor of invisibility/visibility to capture ongoing tensions, it highlights her strategies for success while deconstructing the subtle social and institutional discourses that work against her and create hidden stress, struggle, and doubt. It paints a complex portrait of what “success” may look like for such students in our current higher educational spaces.

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