English Ph.D. Dissertations


Latino/as in Higher Education: Modes of Accommodation in First-Year Writing Programs

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing)

First Advisor

Richard Gebhardt (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Edmund Danziger (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lance Massey (Committee Member)


This pilot study investigates the current state of Latino/a students in higher education and first-year writing (FYW) programs in the United States. This project explores if and how FYW programs address the literacy skills of second generation Latino/as who speak either Spanish or variations of Spanish and English, or who speak only English. I hypothesized in the beginning of this project that the contributing factors to Latino/as' poor academic performance may stem from some educators, policy makers, and political leaders overlooking students' cultural differences. This hypothesis led me to explore the following research questions: (RQ #1) How and why are Latino/as struggling in higher education? (RQ #2) How do Latino/as confront the problems that they encounter in higher education? (RQ #3) What happens to Latino/as' identities when they realize that their family or home culture differs from the academic or school culture? (RQ #4) Do writing programs show awareness of diverse populations? For instance, do they emphasize language diversity in their curricula and policies? (RQ #5) Do writing programs address the needs of minorities and Latino/a students? For instance, do they offer a support group for minorities and/or Latino/a students? (RQ #6) Do WPAs know how successful their writing programs are for minorities and Latino/a students? For instance, do they know if minorities and Latino/a students are doing well in their writing courses? An examination of published research focusing on academic, linguistic, and cultural issues in higher education and FYW helped identify specific problems that Latino/a students encounter in U.S. colleges/universities. Additionally, I developed 13 survey questions for Writing Program Administrators (WPA) intended to provide evidence of Research Questions 4, 5, and 6. The final chapter of this project details conclusions from the study, discusses implications for FYW programs based on the scholarship and data gathered, and provides recommendations for future research. The findings suggest that a high percentage of FYW programs show awareness of diverse student populations, although there is room for improvement in specifically addressing Latino/a students' needs by taking an “accommodation without assimilation” approach.