Living Testimonios: How Latinx Graduate Students Persist and Enact Social Justice Within Higher Education

Phillips & Deleon / IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication / February 2022

two latino students studying

About the case: First-generation Latinx students in technical and professional communication (TPC) and other graduate programs represent a growing percentage of students, yet stories of their experiences within higher education remain muted. The authors analyzed 10 Latinx testimonios (culturally situated narratives) wherein they voice their experiences as first-generation students in US graduate programs. Testimonialistas expressed how they navigate the complexities of being first-generation students and described how they persist and enact social justice. Situating the case: TPC programs may examine the relationship between social injustices and student retention and recruitment efforts, yet there is a dearth of literature regarding specific obstacles that Latinx students face. The authors examined how they build success through coalitional action and culturally informed tactical decision-making.

Methods: The authors recruited participants who self-identified as first-generation Latinx students in TPC and other graduate programs. The authors conducted and recorded semistructured interview sessions based in testimonio and intersectional feminist methodologies. The authors used qualitative data coding and MAXQDA coding software to assemble and map social justice themes at work across the testimonios. Results: Analysis suggests that first-generation Latinx graduate students draw on complex informal and formal networks to aid their success, desire more effective culturally responsive mentorship, and develop tactical decision-making skills to circumvent oppressive behaviors. Conclusions: The authors suggest that directors, mentors, administrators, faculty, and Latinx students begin with a social justice framework to better listen to, understand, and address first-generation Latinx college experiences and build cohort-based support mechanisms into programmatic objectives and professional development sessions.