We see the need to support our Latinx students before and while their at college. We begin to understand the different aspects that contribute to Latinx persistence and success. We’ve learned of the different categories Latinx may fit into and how that effects their own view of themselves. In this part we look at another aspect of how the ecology of a campus affects the way, and if, a Latinx student progresses through higher education. I also provide 3 recommendations for educators and scholars to implement in their work and practice. If you’re a little confused, no worries! Be sure to check out Part 1, 2, & 3.

Critical Mass

However, all these support systems may be in place but the ecology of the campus can change the entire process. A concept this relates to for Latinx is critical mass, the idea that “a level of representation that brings comfort or familiarity within the education environment” (Hagedorn, Chi, Cepeda, & McLain, 2007, p. 74). This has also been expanded by Hagedorn et al. to foster a “staying environment” within a PWI to promote retention and persistence. They also found that there is a positive correlation between the increase of critical mass and academic success.

This concept then brings up questions on structural diversity (Hurtado et al., 1998) and the need to change institutional policies and infrastructure. One study (Cervantes, Minero, & Brito, 2015), which looked at undocumented students, found that “finding and identifying an academic professional was especially important in the development of their academic success and, in turn, in the development of their resiliency” (p. 233). Hagedorn et al. (2007) also states that “the presence of Latino faculty on campus may increase the availability of role models for students and foster a sense of belonging and social integration among students” (p. 89). However, as mentioned before, institutional change and awareness must proceed in order to progress higher education. My research includes the aspects of identity development, academic support, navigating PWIs, and critical mass in order to advance this needed change.

Recommendations for Equity-Minded Practice

Based on the context of Latinx and critical mass, the implications for further research and new developments would be Latinx student education and professional success. The creation of higher education was not intended for Latinx, as the demographics of the United states did not look at all similar hundreds of years ago as they do today in 2018. Although my research does not cover all the needs of Latinx students or all factors in the academic achievement gap, this research shows the need for increased support. With an increase of Latinx student professional attainment, the visibility improves Latinx in the media and in education. Latinx students will be able to envision themselves in roles Latinx do not yet hold. A shift in the Latinx community may arise in which social class is improved and stereotypes are dismantled.

Based on my research I offer three recommendations for faculty, academic institutes within universities, and scholar practitioners.

The first is to collaborate with offices, departments, or organizations which have greater interaction and involvement with students.

In academia the focus is the mind and development in a career path. Continuing the notion of siloing within a university not only impacts a student’s experience but the institution as well. The impact on the institution limits progress and the reputation of being able to support all students.

The second is to practice allyship beyond verbalizing your support.

This may be enacted through having genuine interest in understanding nuances within a student’s culture. It may also happen through creating spaces for students that reflect their culture and provides a location for them to not only study but integrate their academics with their individualized development. Another important action would be to consistently work to understand and dismantle the systems of oppression which Latinx students have to maneuver around or through, in order to attain a degree.

The third recommendation is to highlight the importance of academic achievement in a way that provides hope and possibility.

This can be done in identifying next steps in their career path, brainstorming their possibilities post-grad, and/or connecting Latinx students to mentors or role models. This not only pushes you to think outside of the box, but also provides you the opportunity to look at your own network and if you’ve been able to make connections outside your work.