Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Daniel Saunders

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Rebekah Schulze

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rebecca Christ

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Latinx students, prestigious awards, scholarships, cultural capital, social capital, community cultural wealth, narrative

Date of Defense



The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Latinx applicants to nationally prestigious awards that have an international component. Students from minoritized backgrounds are underrepresented in these awards (Gerz-Escandon, 2017; Brownstein, 2001; Pinto-Alicea, 2001). While research suggests that Latinx students often lack the resources, backgrounds, or preparation to excel in higher education (Gandara, 2017; Salas, 2016; Trevino & DeFreitas, 2014; Bastedo & Jaquette, 2011), community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) highlights less traditional types of capital that minority students bring to higher education.

Using narrative analysis, I examined the application stories of nine Latinx students who had applied to a prestigious award through Florida International University. After conducting two in-depth, semi-structured interviews, three major themes emerged. First, the family was central in my participants’ application stories, influencing their aspirations, providing moral support, and inculcating values like self-improvement. Second, the participants also relied on other networks of support that provided both emotional and instrumental support in the application process, including mentors, viii institutional award advisors, faculty, and even peers. Last, my participants drew on their cultural capital throughout the application process, which included highlighting how their language abilities, cross-cultural adaptability, and cultural identities made them competitive. These results are in line with Yosso’s (2005) model of community cultural wealth, which emphasizes familial and aspirational capital, social capital in the form of key networks of support, and linguistic, navigational, and resistant capital.

My research challenges the narrative that suggests that Latinx students lack the ability to be successful in higher education, and particularly in applying for prestigious awards. It provides different perspectives on community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) by focusing on different Latinx groups, as well as on the strengths that can promote achievement in Latinx students. This study helps institutional award advisors in promoting prestigious awards to Latinx students and in helping them navigate the application process. It also helps award organizations as they continue their diversity initiatives.





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