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Examining Literature, Theory, and Data to Inform Policy

Latinas in STEM: A Review of the Literature Using a Psychosociocultural Lens

Introduction

Latinas’ underrepresentation in STEM fields has received attention in research and practitioner-based journals over the last ten years. As shown in other chapters in this text, increasing Latina access to and success in STEM fields is a national imperative. In this chapter, we consider literature that emphasizes the psychological, social, and cultural factors that have been explored within the literature and that inform resilience for Latinas in STEM. We have decided to focus on these factors because they make up core elements of resilience. We emphasize a particular model—Gloria and Rodriguezs (2000) psychosociocultural model, or PSC model, which has widely been used to understand how Latinx college students navigate their college experiences. Rather than provide new data, we synthesize research related to Latinas in STEM over the last ten years using a systematic literature review approach to consider the following question: How does ament literature about resilience for Latina college students in STEM connect to the psychosociocultural model?

The literature review approach that we describe in the following section serves as our method for analysis. The articles we have identified through a multi-step process of review serve as our data. As a result of this meta-analysis, we are able to synthesize findings and suggest future implications for research and practice. We rely on Butlers classic definition of resilience and work to relate it to the PSC model. Butler defines resilience as “an interactive and systemic phenomenon, the product of a complex relationship of inner strengths and outer help” (1997, p. 26). There are additional forms of resilience that are likely to inform the research that we have reviewed. For example, Reyes (2012) situates Latinas’ academic resilience in postsecondary education as a form of both achievement and resistance. Like the other chapters of this text, we interpret resilience as contextual, multifaceted, dynamic, and personal.

Theoretical Framework: Psychosociocultural (PSC) Model

The psychosociocultural approach includes the exploration of three elements as they occur on college and university campuses. These components include the psychological, social, and cultural dimensions of postsecondary education (Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000). These components are intertwined and at times can overlap based on the context and experiences of the individual. The psychological features of the model include the beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions individuals hold about themselves. The social elements of the model focus on the networks, mentors, peers, role models, and other social connections related to career and campus life. Finally, the cultural piece of the model is inclusive of the values, meaning, and possible validation that individuals might experience. These three components come together as a persistence model that seeks to offer an explanation of how Latinx students—and in this case, Latina students—find their way through their academic major and daily campus life.

Gloria and Rodriguezs (2000) model emerges from the field of counseling. The model is attentive to prior research about student development and acknowledges research showing that all students face adjustment issues as they come into college. However, Gloria and Rodriguez (2000) also make visible the history of discrimination, and the perceptions and realities of socioeconomic differences that Latinx students may face on college campuses, which places them at a disadvantage in comparison to their White peers. Drawing on the work of Sue, Arrendondo, and McDavis (1992), Gloria and Rodriguez question the effects of ethnic identity and acculturation and its possible effects on the mental health and persistence of Latinx college undergraduates. After presenting qualitative data based on interviews with Latinx college students, they outline a dispositional “set of attitudes and beliefs, knowledge, and skills” that counselors should use when counseling Latinx students (Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000, p. 150). These dispositions should be used to help counselors consider their own competencies related to students’ dispositions, as well as the “university environment, ethnic identity, acculturation, and social identity” while working with Latinx students (p. 152). Studies that explore the PSC model quantitively (Agu- inaga & Gloria, 2015; Gloria, Castellanos, & Herrera, 2016) and qualitatively (Moreno & Banuelos, 2013; Sanchez, 2011) continue to support that the concerns of Latinx students noted in the additional study continue, and that attention to counseling and student affairs practices that encompass these supporting practices are valuable.

For example, Gloria, Castellanos, and Orozco (2005) center coping strategies that are fundamental to the PSC model and college persistence in their study of 98 Latinas pursuing graduate-level training. Their study included Latinas who differed by educational goals, characteristics, and immigration generations. Their core findings suggested that positive action as a coping response and cultural congruity were consistent predictors of well-being and degree completion. Cultural congruity can be described as understanding how to support the psychosociocultural needs of these students. The authors were intentional in pointing out that these positive signifiers of well-being pushed back against stereotypes about Latinas, how they value education, and perceptions about their ability to mitigate barriers to their educational plans.

Castellanos and Gloria’s (2007) research using the PSC model asserted that three elements should come together to form strategies for success. Relying on qualitative interviews with Latinx students on a predominately White college campus, they suggest that there are numerous opportunities to improve the college experience for Latinx students. Some of the psychological elements of success would include: “receiving a monthly care package from home . . . talking with family to provide daily updates . . . (and) having faculty ask and be concerned about one’s well-being” (p. 386). Social elements of success could be: “attending monthly Latina/o based student organization meetings. . . weekly meetings with a faculty member to discuss educational progress. . . greeting Latina/o peers on campus between classes” (p. 386). Finally, cultural elements might be: “engaging in monthly community' projects that address Latina/o issues . . . talking about family with a faculty member over coffee or lunch . . . (and) fluidly moving between an ethnic-specific student group and predominantly white classroom” (p. 387). Through these recommendations for success, we can visualize an achievable set of practices that would shift both policies and cultural practices related to retention on a college campus.

As shown in Castellanos and Gloria (2007), the PSC model is intentional about identifying factors, practices, and policies that influence Latina college persistence. The psychological elements include self-esteem and self- efficacy. The social elements can include family, mentors, and peers. Cultural elements include one’s connection to ethnic identity' and cultural congruity or incongruity that one experiences in the university context (Castellanos & Gloria, 2007). The PSC model can be used to approach persistence goals by examining the experiences of the individual and intentionally connecting them to practices to improve the campus climate.

 
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