Gonzalez, Mary (2012-10). Journey to the Doctorate:The Experiences of First-Generation HIspanic Students. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of first-generation Hispanic students who have obtained a doctorate degree (EdD or PhD). The Hispanic population continues to increase in the United States, particularly in the state of Texas. However, the level of Hispanics' educational attainment lags behind that of the U.S. and Texas populations in general. The overall economic impact of low Hispanic educational attainment, coupled with continuing growth of this group, presents a pressing issue for future workforce educators and human resource development professionals. It is critical to understand educational experiences of first-generation Hispanic students to address the lack of educational achievement among this group of people. Within the naturalistic inquiry research paradigm, I adopted a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to collect rich and thick data that could shed light on the "lived experiences" of six doctoral recipients who are first-generation Hispanic students. Through multiple rounds of in-depth interviews, supplemented by personal observations and multiple email exchanges with participants, I generated extensive personal stories, developed a meaningful relationship with the participants, and discovered the essence of the participants' experiences. Four themes emerged from an in-depth analysis of interview, pictorial, and observational data: (a) support systems, (b) personal attributes, (c) identity struggles, and (d) socialization struggles. These themes led to discovery of three components that shaped participants' experiences: a journey of support, a journey of self-discovery and self-development, and a journey of identity development. The findings not only have implications for Hispanic students who aspire to higher educational goals; they point to areas for improvement for educators, human resource development practitioners, and policy makers. Directions for future research were proposed to encourage further research on the topic and issues related to first-generation Hispanic students.

publication date

  • October 2012