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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Ezekiel Kimball

Second Advisor

Cristine Smith

Third Advisor

Darrell Earnest

Subject Categories

Educational Leadership | Higher Education Administration


College enrollment rates for Puerto Ricans in the United States and in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have been steadily increasing over the last twenty years; however, enrollment rates for 18- to 24-year-old Latinos remain low compared to whites of the same age groups. The rationale for this gap often portrays Latinos as deficient, using terms such as “academic underachievement” and “at-risk.” This framing—centered on the individual—shifts the focus away from systemic barriers, such as limited financial resources for Latinos, culturally relevant pedagogy, intergenerational transfer of disadvantage, and systemic racism, among other factors explored this this study. This study contributes to our collective understanding of the Puerto Rican educational experience (as the second-largest Latino subgroup) through Lightfoot’s portraiture methodology. In doing so, this study synthesizes the stories and other sources of data collected from four participants for the purpose of further analysis. These portraits seek to reconstruct in-depth lived-experience stories of Puerto Ricans who successfully navigated their educational journeys to the doctorate. As investigator, also a Puerto Rican earning a doctorate, I examine these portraits through the lens of Community Cultural Wealth (Yosso, 2005), which unpacks the forms of capital (aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, navigational, and resistant) each participant leveraged along their educational journeys. The portraits allow the investigator and the reader to ascertain a more nuanced understanding of the students’ educational journeys. For example, while participant portraits reflect highly varied backgrounds, participants experienced such barriers as poverty; access to books; and physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. On the other hand, participants also experienced a number of factors that helped facilitate their educational journeys, such as community expectations; faculty member and/or advisor influence; and support from friends, peers, and loved ones. The portraits in this work shed light on the Puerto Rican experience through the doctorate, and contributes to limited literature regarding Puerto Rican doctoral degree attainment. The significance of this study highlights the need for more research on the educational experiences of Puerto Ricans, and the Latino diaspora more broadly. Recommendations for students, faculty, and administrators is also presented.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.