Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

William Young, Ed.D.

Co-Major Professor

Valerie J. Janesick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Patty Alvarez-McHatton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Blank, Ph.D.


Puerto Rican Studies, Academic Persistence, Academic Resilience, Social Role, Phenomenology


A review of the literature indicates that Latinos lag behind Whites and Blacks in college degree attainment. This educational disparity is of concern because Latinos are currently the largest minority group in the United States, and the Latino population is expected to increase exponentially in the future. College degree attainment for Latinos is imperative because statistics show an undeniable relationship between degree attainment and income level. In order to ensure the economic wellbeing of Latinos, it is important that Latinos persist through college degree programs. This is especially true for Puerto Ricans because they are the second largest Latino subgroup.

The majority of college persistence and departure literature applies to students in general and some of the studies focus on Latino College students. However, fewer studies explore the perspectives of Latinos with the process of graduate or doctoral degree attainment. This is especially true of Latinos of specific ethnic backgrounds such as Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican. I conducted this study in order to address this gap in the literature.

This study described and explained the perspectives of a purposive sample of Puerto Rican doctoral graduates on their education by exploring those social and cultural factors that influenced their perceptions, and served as educational facilitators or barriers to their doctoral attainment. The questions that guided the study were: 1.What are the

components of their perspectives? and; 2. What social-cultural variables influenced their perspectives?

In order to answer the research questions, I interviewed eight Puerto Ricans with doctorates who were affiliated with the GOTHAM educational system in the state of New York. In order to collect the data, I went to New York in February and March 2010 and conducted face to face interviews with the participants, which were recorded. After I recorded the interviews, I transcribed the data, which I analyzed using a software program called Atlas.ti. I analyzed the data by coding the excerpts, which I identified as the subthemes or variables of this study. The subthemes were coalesced into major themes, which were validated by peer review, several iterations of member check, and data triangulation. After coming to a consensus at all levels of validation, I determined that the emergent themes were in fact evidence of the components of the perceptions of the participants‟ experiences with doctoral attainment. Those components are Personal Factors, Social Role Factors, Cultural Factors, and Social Factors.

Based on the analysis of the data, the most profound influence to the perception of the participants‟ lived doctoral experiences was that of the interaction of being a doctoral student, or Adult Learner, with at least one other social role. The most commonly reported negative interaction was being an Adult Learner and a Worker at the same time. Having a lack of Finances, No Latino Role Models, experiencing Negative Events by Ethnicity, and struggling with Self-Efficacy served as barriers to most of the participants. Having Peer Networks and Faculty Support served as facilitators to most of the participants. In order to add to the usefulness of this study, I asked the participants for their advice to future or current doctoral students, and for suggestions to faculty and administrators of higher education. I included their responses as part of this study.