|Abstract or Summary
- Low completion rates have created serious "leakage points" (Astin, 1988) and
"severe hemorrhaging" (Lango, 1996) in higher education to a large number of Hispanics.
Traditional research on college persistence, which has blamed the students' culture for low
performance, is inaccurate.
Little research has specifically investigated academic persistence from a cultural
perspective. Spirituality is a dynamic dimension among this cultural group. It is an
untapped richness that Hispanic students bring with them to higher education.
The study focused on six participants' understandings of spirituality from a
cultural perspective. The purpose of the study helped participants voice the influence of
their cultural spirituality and critically reflect the university's role regarding this cultural
The research question was: What does spirituality, from a cultural aspect, mean in
the context of persistence by Mexican American Chicana (o) students who transfer from a
community college to a small liberal arts university?
Critical theory, emphasizing phenomenology and critical consciousness, was the
epistemological perspective. An indigenous methodology was used. Such a critical
perspective and indigenous methodology embraced the participants border knowledge.
Three data collection methods were used. A 43-Item Likert Survey, twenty-four
diaolgos (individual conversations), and three circulos de cultura (group discussions).
Data was interpreted with the following findings. The majority of the participants'
survey responses indicated that matters of the spirit are important and significant to them.
Through the diálogos the participants expressed interpretations and critiques by indigenous
modes of language that spirituality did influenced their persistence. In the circulos the
participants developed insights interconnecting spirituality and persistence. Spirituality
was expressed through various images: "a push," "passion," "a driving force and desire,"
"an inner force," "La Virgen," and a "quiet inner strength." Most importantly, their
persistence was influenced by a family-centered spirituality grounded in their cultural
This qualitative study highlighted the six voices. Each case consisted of an
interpretation of the participant's phenomenological understanding and growth in critical
The co-investigators' enriched the analysis by their cultural intuition and bicultural
understanding. The following themes emerged from participants' visual and written
2) Quien Soy Yo? (Who Am I?)
3) Quiet Inner Strength
4) Recognizing My Background.
5) Encouraging Me to Persist.
6) Critical Consciousness of the Interrelationships of One's Culture.
Study concluded with testimonies from the co-investigators. Researcher
proclaimed: it is important to listen to students voice why they persisted from strengths
within their culture.