Announcement of Ph.D. Higher Education Dissertation Defense Merylou Rodríguez: “Echando Pa’lante: RicanStructing Puerto Rican Undergraduate Persistence”

10:00 am - 11:30 am

The experiences of Puerto Rican undergraduates are rendered virtually invisible within higher education’s monolithic discourse of Latinx/as/os/e students. As US citizens since 1898, coloniality and el vaivén between the island and Stateside US continue to shape the educational experiences of Puerto Ricans. Educational institutions have served as tools of colonization, seeking to suppress Puerto Ricans’ cultural and national identity. Deculturation practices and Americanization strategies are experienced both on the island and replicated in Puerto Ricans’ education in the US. Given that Puerto Rican education research is largely situated within the K12 literature, this study focused on Puerto Rican students in US higher education. The study captured the narratives of 17 self-identified Puerto Rican collaborators at Rutgers UniversityNew Brunswick (RUNB) and explored how they persisted toward their undergraduate degrees. This study included the following three findings: (1) Puerto Rican families’ propulsive role in educational attainment, (2) being on the same campus but “worlds apart,” and (3) a Puerto Rican state of mind. This research contributes to higher education literature on Puerto Rican undergraduates methodologically, conceptually, and theoretically. First, this study used Charlas methodology which expands culturally grounded methodological approaches. Next, this study found collaborators persisted by echando pa’lante, a concept encompassing behaviors, knowledge, and attitudes towards degree attainment. Theoretically, this study proposed tenets to Garcia et al.’s (2019) conceptualization of RicanStruction Framework in higher education. Finally, this Boricuacentric research theorized Puerto Rican undergraduates’ lived and storied experiences as legitimate data.

Keywords: Puerto Ricans, higher education, persistence, RicanStruction, Charlas

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