Mexican American adults in higher education

Open Access
De Rosa, Janet Ann
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 07, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Dissertation Advisor
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair
  • Felicia Lynne Brown Haywood, Committee Member
  • Gloria Bodtorf Clark, Committee Member
  • Chiara Sabina, Committee Member
  • Karin Sprow Forte, Committee Member
  • Mexican American
  • adult learning
  • higher education
This qualitative study used a narrative design to explore the perceptions, background and experiences of Mexican Americans who completed their bachelor’s degree as adult learners. The study focuses in particular on their experiences of learning to be bicultural. A Borderlands framework whereby Mexican American adult learners negotiated university life between two cultures, namely their culture of origin and the host culture, served as the primary theoretical framework that informed the study. Data consisted mostly of participant narrative interviews. Artifacts representing their culture or experience in higher education that some participants either discussed over the phone or actually brought to the interview served as ancillary forms of data. Data were analyzed using a three-dimensional model of narrative analysis. The findings of the study were then grouped into four major areas. The first set of findings focused on background information as it related to agriculture, educational pursuits, and family of origin. The second set of findings related to opportunities seized through a Mexican American collectivist mindset. The third set focused on how participants negotiated life in the Borderlands, geographically or metaphorically as they became more bicultural. The final set pertains to managing life as adult learners in higher education. The study ends with a consideration of the findings in light of theory and educational practice. Suggestions for future research also are made pointing to the immense gaps in the literature pertaining to the process of becoming bicultural for Mexican American adult learners and how that process influences retention in higher education, persistence in academics and college degree attainment.