Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Nancy Acevedo-Gil


While college access has been improved for Latina/o students, there is still the challenge of graduating Latina/o students with equitable academic outcomes (Bates et al., 2018). Hispanic-Serving Institutions are the sites that enroll the majority (67%) of Latina/o students in college; two out of three Latina/o students attend these broad-access, open-enrollment, minority-serving institutions known as HSIs (Excelencia, 2021). Universities across the United States are aware of the changing demographics of higher education but are slow to change policies and practices to become “student-ready” (McNair et al., 2016). Critical research on how Latina/o students experience higher education practices for student retention, more specifically, High-Impact Practices (HIPs) at HSIs, may hold the key to changing institutional cultures that directly impact improving outcomes for Latina/os in all different segments of higher education. Service-learning courses have been recognized in the research to have a higher impact on student success for Students of Color; this study will examine the experiences of Latina/o students in service-learning courses at a Hispanic Serving Institution or HSI. I introduce a framework titled the Student Engagement Ecosystem (SEE) Framework which examines the application of classroom practices beyond the binary of the course practice and the student. The SEE framework encourages leaders and practitioners to examine not only the student but their individual microsystem, which includes their family, access to resources, well-being, health, and their life and educational experiences, both positive and negative. Likewise, practitioners need to examine their role in the application of the classroom practices, I challenge them to examine the norms in the classroom, amongst the student’s peers, and at the university itself. Practitioners should identify institutional support and resources, as well as barriers and systemic inequity where possible. This framework is based on theoretical frameworks that informed my research, such as Critical Race Theory in Education (CRTE) (Solórzano,1998), Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) (Yosso, 2005), Validation Theory (Rendon, 1994, Rendon Linares & Muñoz, 2011), Transformational Leadership (Bensimon, 2007; Bensimon & Bishop, 2012), Hispanic Servingness (Garcia, 2017, 2018). Taken together this framework invites leaders and educational practitioners to see the whole student and their complex realities as individuals seeking belonging and validation in an educational system that may be foreign to them and their families.