Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Language, Literacy, & Culture

First Advisor

Theresa Y. Austin

Second Advisor

Laura Valdiviezo

Third Advisor

Dayo F. Gore

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Higher Education | Latin American Studies | Linguistics


While we know about the increasing link between a college education, and social mobility, we are not as informed with who actually makes the transition to college, how they negotiate these spaces, the impact of their secondary education, and the effects of pre-college programs (Louie, 2007).The purpose of this interdisciplinary, narrative inquiry is to fill this gap by presenting a representative tale of how a student experiences her social worlds in relation to school and the impact of college access programs which the researcher administered. This academic year long study builds on a prior action-based ethnographic study and draws on ethnographic approaches. Data collection include four semi-structured 90 minute interviews, field notes, autobiographical and academic written work, as well as personal communication.

Critical Race Theory (CRT), Latino Critical Theory (LatCrit), and Critical Race Feminism (Ladson-Billings, 1998; Parker, Deyhle, & Villenas, 1999; Solórzano, 1998; Solórzano & Villalpando, 1998; Tate, 1997), when used as theoretical frames help to expose the ways so-called race-neutral institutional policies and practices perpetuate racial, ethnic, class, gender, and language subordination as reflected in storied experiences. These frameworks help in exploring, questioning and problematizing broader schooling experiences and practices, as well as educational policies rather than just examining the singular dimension of college transition as if social contexts do not play a critical role (Koyama, 2007).

This scholarship takes up the complexity embedded in the transition to college by critically analyzing the narratives of a Dominican student's experiences. As sense-making can be seen in part as "dialogic," Bakhtin's concept of "dialogism" is also used when exploring language (Bakhtin, 1981) as "people tell others who they are, but even more important, they tell themselves and then they try to act as though they are who they say they are" (Holland,, 1998, p. 3). Representations suggest that in the process of recounting experiences multiple selves were enacted in relation to various figured worlds where discourses (Gee 1986-2005) serve as mediating tools for negotiation, contestation, and becoming.