Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Cheryl D. Ching

Second Advisor

Katalin Szelényi

Third Advisor

Cynthia Diana Villarreal


The prevalence of whiteness at selective Historically White Institutions (HWIs) creates hostile and oppressive environments for Latinx/a/o students. Consequently, Latinx/a/o students face racialized barriers that impact their ability to thrive at these institutions. Yet, despite these racialized barriers, Latinx/a/o students have found ways to thrive at selective HWIs. Thriving is a transformative process through which one confronts and copes with challenges but is able to flourish. As part of the process, the transformation happens when one moves beyond the original level of functioning and grows psychologically despite the trauma experienced. The objective of this study was to move beyond the racialized barriers that Latinx/a/o students face and understand how Latinx/a/o students thrive at selective HWIs.

To move away from deficit-based ways of looking at Latinx/a/o student experience, this study integrated three Latinx/a/o-focused, asset-based theories to understand how Latinx/a/o students thrived. LatCrit, community cultural wealth (CCW), and validation theory were utilized in this study. The author examined how seven Latinx/a/o co-creators thrived at a selective HWI in the northeastern United States, employing a phenomenological approach to discover the essence and nuances of thriving for Latinx/a/o students. Initial findings suggest that (a) Latinx/a/o student thriving is connected to various elements not defined by academic success; (b) Latinx/a/o students tap into community cultural wealth, validating agents, and institutional spaces to overcome racialized barriers; and (c) Latinx/a/o student thriving is subjective and episodic at selective HWIs. Overall, these findings illuminate the complexity and nuances of Latinx/a/o student thriving at selective HWIs. The findings also suggest that internal agents at selective HWIs need to be aware of the subjective and episodic nature of thriving for Latinx/a/o students and understand the conditions and elements that can support Latinx/a/o student thriving.