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Coming out of the Shadows: Undocumented Latinx Students Persisting into Higher Education through Appreciative Inquiry


Undocumented Latinx students are currently one of the most disenfranchised racial/ethnic groups in the United States. As demography reaches critical mass levels in many states, visibility has triggered new economic and policy imperatives. The Latinx populations in many states have created a sense of urgency regarding socioeconomic concerns. This cultural shift is re-framing the debate on access to higher education, in-state tuition benefits and labor market prospects. These issues have reached a cultural tipping point, demonstrating that innovative research is needed to address the growing complexity undocumented Latino students face in the K-20 higher education pipeline. The theoretical framework of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) was examined through previous scholarship in a variety of disciplines and applied to qualitative and quantitative studies of undocumented students. This research examines the potential implications researching undocumented students through the lens of AI can have for social justice, leadership and cultivating a growth-mind set. The concept of generative capacity is explored as an impetus for greater social transformation. Policy considerations are discussed in relation to the unique challenges these students face. This review asserts further research is integral in addressing institutional barriers undocumented Latino students encounter navigating through complex educational, political and economic systems. A semi-structured qualitative interview protocol was implemented with 15 undocumented Latinx students utilizing the 4-D model of Appreciative Inquiry. Students selected transferred from a California Community College to a California 4-year public research institution. Findings indicated the experiences these students encounter during the transfer process, who supported them, and how institutional, community and family support was integral in successfully navigating this specific pipeline in the K-20 higher education system. Implications and future recommendations will also be presented in relation to undocumented student agency.

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