What Does It Mean to be in an Academic Space that Doesn’t Reflect Your Cultural Background? Identidad, Empoderamiento, y Representación Latina in the Texas State MARC Program
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What does it mean to be in an academic space that doesn’t reflect you or your cultural background? As Latina/o/x1 students navigate higher education, they are isolated as Latina/o/x-faculty-to-Latina/o/x-student ratios continue to be unbalanced. Additionally, Latina/o/x students are preoccupied with negotiating issues on identidad management and formation as well as feeling empowered to persevere in a predominately White space. There is already a significant amount of scholarship that stress the importance of ethnic faculty representación, but most of this research is focused on K-12 education, not the university level, or does not consider Latina/o/x representación specifically. This case study seeks to understand how the lack of ethnic faculty representación in a particular place and program—the Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Composition program at Texas State University, a Hispanic-Serving Institution—affects a cohort of Latina students and how it informs (a) identidad, (b) empoderamiento, and (c) representación étnica through academic relationships, participation, and self-identification in a predominantly White academic space. To do so, I incorporate student perspectives through semi-structured interviews with the Latina MARC students enrolled in the Spring 2021 semester.
Footnote: 1 To acknowledge the diversity of this community, "Latino" and "Latina," are used in this paper to address individual male- and female-identifying people, as well as "Latina/o/x" and "Latinas/os/xs" to address the general group of people who are of Latin American origin and descent. To acknowledge the individual identities in this case study, I will use the specific labels the participants and myself identify as, such as "Latina" and "Chicana."