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Latina Perceptions: Making Meaning of Familial and Financial Tensions While Pursuing a College Degree
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AbstractThe purpose of this study was to explore the role that campus employment played as Latina students navigated familial obligations and financial constraints while pursuing an undergraduate degree. Specifically, this research addressed the following question: How do Latina women who are enrolled and working on campus navigate and negotiate educational and familial systems while obtaining a college degree?Fifteen full-time first-generation Latina students who were employed on campus at a public land grant institution participated in semi-structured interviews that focused on their experiences in transitioning from high school to college, their familial situation, on-campus work, and their expectations for graduation. Four themes emerged from the analysis of data: a context of financial constraints; cultural tensions; feeling overwhelmed; and the importance of meaningful relationships. A qualitative research design that utilized a constructivist grounded theory was used to understand the perceptions about student employment as a lived social construct struggled with and shared by the study participants. Through the study of this phenomena, self-efficacy and agency were used as the theoretical lenses. There were tensions that played out for these Latina women when they entered the college environment and the academic and student employment expectations they met. It was the expectations within the context of the institutions – family and university – that became the mechanism for building self-efficacy and agency. Through the interplay between the self and family and the self and the institution they began to understand themselves as autonomous beings with a dream of obtaining a college degree. Through this endeavor, the women in this study did not appear to assimilate into either institution – family or higher education – to obtain their goals; rather, they created environments that mirrored values of both. They honored relational collectivism while learning to operate as independent agents. Gratitude and aspirations drove the connection between the family and imparted self-efficacy necessary to fulfill the family’s dream. Obligation drove the self-efficacy to tackle the tensions and stresses associated with reconciling the familial conflicts that arose within the family. Optimism and expectations drove the connection between the women’s desire to obtain a degree for themselves. Determination drove their agency in their attempts to navigate the institutional demands of an education and student employment.