Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Higher Education Administration

Advisor's Name

Glenda Droogsma Musoba

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Aurora Morcillo

Advisor's Name

Janice Sandiford

Advisor's Name

Roger Geertz-Gonzalez

Keywords

Identity Development, Hispanic Serving Institution, Cuban American

Date of Defense

3-23-2009

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding and gather insight into the experiences of Cuban American women attending a 4-year, public, Hispanic Serving Institution and how those experiences influenced their identity development. This was accomplished by conducting in-depth interviews and focus groups with 12 self-identified Cuban American women who were classified as sophomores, juniors, seniors, or graduate students. All of the participants had attended Florida International University for at least 1 year. The women had varying degrees of on and off campus academic and campus involvement activities.

Participants were asked about six topics: (a) family, (b) cultural influences, (c) gender, (d) ethical and moral development, (e) education, and (f) ethnic identity. Based on the coding of the data provided by the participants, several interconnected themes emerged including the importance of family, familial support, cultural pride, expected gender roles, core values, decision making, biculturalism, and the value of attending a Hispanic Serving Institution. These themes were found to be all related to the identity development of the participants.

It was found that looking at identity through a multidimensional lens is essential. Looking at personal growth and development through anthropological, sociological, and psychosocial lenses gave greater insight to a population of students who have been largely underrepresented in the literature. The findings of this case study are that culture is contextual and identity development is complex for first and second generation Cuban American women attending a Hispanic Serving Institution in a majority minority city. It was found that several factors, including the importance of family and gender roles, were not found to be more important than one another; rather they supported each other in regards to the participants’ identity development. The notion of biculturalism as it has been presented in the literature was challenged in this study as it was found that the participants’ experiences living and attending a school in a majority minority city presented a new way of understanding what it might mean to be bicultural. For professionals in the field, the findings of this study may lead to a broader understanding of nuances within the Hispanic community and a better understanding of the distinctiveness of what it means to be a Cuban American woman.

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