Educational Administration, Department of


First Advisor

Elizabeth Niehaus

Date of this Version



Garcia, C. E. (2017). Latinx college student sense of belonging: The role of campus subcultures (Doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Elizabeth Niehaus. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Crystal E. Garcia


This qualitative, multiple case study incorporated elements of a grounded theory approach to explore the role of involvement in a particular university subculture, Latinx Greek letter organizations, in how Latinx college students develop and make meaning of their sense of belonging within predominantly White institutions. The study was guided by the following questions: (1) How do Latinx college students involved in LGLOs at PWIs experience and develop a sense of belonging? (2) What role (if any) does involvement in Latinx fraternities and sororities play in how Latinx college students experience and develop a sense of belonging at PWIs? Participants included 14 Latinx college students involved in Latinx Greek letter organizations at two large, public universities in the Midwest. Data collection involved individual level and institutional level data. Individual level data were the primarily data source and included a demographic survey in addition to a set of three individual interviews using photo elicitation with each of the 14 participants. Institutional level data included institutional documents and statements as well as interviews with Greek Life staff members at participating institutions.

An exploration of participants’ sense of belonging in microsystems, “the immediate, face-to-face setting in which the person exists” (Bronfenbrenner, 1997, p. 302), pointed to five primary characteristics of places of belonging: where I have a role or responsibility, where people look like me, where I am valued and cared for, where my racial identity and culture is recognized and valued, and where I share interests or values with others. These characteristics shaped the extent to which participants felt a sense of belonging within a given setting, which had a ripple effect on individuals’ sense of belonging in other contexts. The findings of this study underscored the significance of the role of belonging in campus subcultures for Latinx college students regardless of whether individuals also felt a sense of belonging within the university as a whole, thus highlighting the significance of micro- and macro- levels of belonging in the experiences of Latinx college students. This study offers implications for research and practice based on these findings.