"I'm here for a purpose": Latina/Chicana senior student affairs officers' testimonios of resistance and resilience
Morin, Molly Francine
Espino, Michelle M
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The purpose of this study was to provide a deeper understanding of the career pathways and lived experiences of Latina senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) in U.S. higher education. Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth model served as the conceptual framework for this study and offered a strengths-based lens that recognizes the assets Latina SSAOs bring from their lived experiences, families, and communities to navigate their personal and professional journeys. A testimonio research design was used to explore two research questions: (a) What resources and supports have Latinas benefited from in their career pathways to the SSAO role? (b) What strategies have Latina SSAOs employed to navigate challenges in their career pathways? Seven Latina SSAOs participated in the study, which involved participation in a 90-minute initial oral testimonio interview, 90-minute virtual focus group via videoconferencing, and a 60-minute follow-up interview. Each participant could opt-in to each of these data collection pieces based on their interest and availability. This study adapted Pérez Huber’s (2010) three-phase data analysis process to uncover the findings that spanned across the participants’ testimonios. Through a constant comparative analysis of the data, multiple readings of participant transcripts and testimonios, and feedback from the participants, four themes emerged: (a) Familia [Family]: Source of Knowledge, Aspirations, and Emotional Support; (b) Signaling Opportunity: Mentors and Guides Fostering Career Advancement; (c) It’s All in the Approach: Transforming Experiences of Adversity; and (d) Follow your Purpose: Mission-Driven Leadership Fostering Persistence. Findings revealed the powerful role family and mentors played in the participants’ career pathways by providing them with knowledge, skills, and emotional support which promoted their advancement. Findings also illuminated how the participants navigated challenges in their careers by employing resistance strategies and holding steadfast to their social justice commitment. This study contributes to the limited body of research on Latina administrators in higher education and is the first known study to focus explicitly on Latina SSAOs’ experiences. Bearing witness to these Latina/Chicana SSAO trailblazers’ testimonios can inspire Latina leaders and guide institutions, professional associations, and faculty in higher education/student affairs graduate preparation programs in supporting the advancement of current/future Latina SSAOs.