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Analysis: Viewing the Research Through a PSC Lens

The PSC model includes three areas of influence—psychological, social, and cultural—as a part of understanding Latina college students’persistence. We sought to consider resilience and retention using the PSC model and the following research question: How does current literature about resilience for Latina college students in STEM connect to the psychosociocultural model? After identifying the 16 most salient articles, we found varying results in terms of which constructs of the model were most present.

In terms of the psychological element, which includes self, 16 of 21 studies emphasized one’s sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem as highly important. S. Rodriguez’s work—published throughout 2019 with multiple co-authors and within this text, in partnership with Lu and Ramirez—as well as Arroyo (2017)’s work, focus on the need to bring together one’s multiple types of identities to create a successful and positive sense of self. Rodriguez and colleagues’ research suggests that the development of an integrated identity would increase STEM completion for Latinas. Arroyos work, which combines critical analysis and testimonio, reinforces these findings of the value of a constructive sense of self.

With regard to the social element of the PSC model, we again see a number of findings that overlap. Family influence was noted as being important in all 21 studies that we reviewed. In each study, family was highlighted as a source of strength (Hiles, 2015), connection (Longoria, 2013; Martinez et al. (2019), and understanding (Tello, 2015), and as part of the structure of one’s life (Verdin, 2020). Of course, many studies acknowledged that especially in the case of a first-generation student, the family might not have a detailed understanding of the student experience, but students’ knowledge that their families, including extended family, supported them had a motivating effect (Espinoza, 2013; Mein et al., 2020; Verdin, 2020).

Eleven studies noted affirmative interactions with faculty' and mentors. For example, Cantu’s work (2012) showcased the transformational effects of the faculty or mentor who takes notice in the STEM promise of the individual. She notes that this mentoring role can begin before college and carry into postsecondary experiences. Gonzalez, Molina, and Turner’s work (2020), as well as Garcia et al.’s (2020) work, consider the value of mentors as essential to resilience. This seems especially salient in the work of Garcia et al., which suggests that mentors might serve as a bridge throughout an otherwise compartmentalized academic experience. Other studies that emphasize the value of faculty and mentors suggested that even the mere presence of faculty, especially Latina faculty, as visual role models held a positive effect (Aguirre & Banda, 2019; Bello, 2018; Castellanos, 2018).

Peers, which can be considered part of the social construct in the PSC model as well as part of the cultural construct, emerged as an influential group within the context of these studies. While some studies clearly called out male-dominant culture within STEM departments (Arroyo, 2017; Bello, 2018; Cantu, 2012; Mercedez, 2015), they also noted that Latinas were able to find community with other Latinas outside of their majors, which helped to mitigate feelings of isolation within the major. Mein et al.’s findings (2020) suggested that peers are a critical part of understanding and developing one’s identity' in practice. Rodriguez et al. (2019) and Rodriguez et al. (2019) highlighted the value of student organizations as part of the social element. Peer organizations served as connections between the social and cultural elements of the PSC model.

Ethnic identity' and cultural congruity are part of the cultural element of the model. As Rodriguez et al.’s (2019) study highlights, it was the connection with identity-based student organizations that made a difference for the students in their study. Espinoza’s (2013) qualitative study of first-generation Latinxs in STEM fields came to a similar conclusion, as does Esquinca et al.’s (2015) qualitative study of Latina undergraduates in computer science and engineering. Esquinca et al.’s (2015) findings not only supported the value of identity-based organization; they also advocated for consistent spaces that supported group interactions like these.

There were 11 studies that found that campus climate, or environmental factors related to the campus or academic major experiences, had an effect on resilience or persistence. These studies shared mixed results. Tello (2015), Banda and Flowers (2018), and Martinez et al. (2019) identified campus climates as spaces that were sometimes neutral and other times chilly. Verdin s work suggested that these environments are part of an individual’s selected or imposed environment. While a Latina STEM student might choose to attend a particular campus or select a major, they would have little control over the environment overall. Other qualitative and mixed-methods studies within this literature review found similar results. These studies reported more challenges to resilience as part of the external environment, rather than an internal struggle.

The one outlying finding from these studies was the value that Latinas place on careers and career orientations. Four studies—Arroyo (2017), Castellanos (2018), Gonzalez et al. (2020), and Rodriguez et al. (2019)—mentioned career goals or aspirations as a main driver for the women in their study. These findings could be a result of the kinds of questions that were asked in these qualitative and quantitative studies. In each case, the aspiration toward career was noted as a positive effect.

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