Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Larry H. Ebbers


By 2011, the U.S. Latina/o population had achieved a key milestone in higher education, becoming the largest racial/ethnic minority group on U.S. college campuses. In the past 20 years, research studies on student success have increasingly focused on the Latina/o student population, particularly at predominantly White institutions. Among the many factors related to college success, ethnic cultural centers have emerged recently as an underexamined but potentially influential aspect of the college experience for students of color.

Using a student success conceptual framework, this case study examined the role of an ethnic cultural center in the experience of Latina/o students at a predominantly White institution located in the Midwest. The research site was the Latino Native American Cultural Center (LNACC) located at the University of Iowa. The study was guided by three psychosocio concepts: sense of belonging, thriving, and validation. Eleven undergraduate Latina/o students and six university staff members participated in a series of interviews during a 6- month period. Data collection also included site observations and document analysis.

Five key themes emerged from the study: (a) getting connected, (b) the LNACC "vibe," (c) LNACC as anchor and launching pad, (d) Latina/o presence on campus, and (e) neutral, sacred, and (con)tested space. The first theme, getting connected, provides an understanding of the multiple ways in which the student participants were able to get connected to the LNACC. The second theme, the LNACC "vibe," illuminates how students made meaning of their experiences at the LNACC, a space that many of the participants referred to as having a unique "vibe" or essence. The LNACC as anchor or launching pad theme represents the various temporal experiences of students as they either moved from frequent to infrequent engagement with the LNACC or continued to have a strong connection to the LNACC. The fourth theme, Latina/o presence on campus, reflects the students' expressed desire for visibility on campus and their perception of the LNACC as a representation of the Latina/o presence. The final theme, neutral, sacred, and con(tested) space, illustrates how students' tacit understandings of the various physical spaces within the LNACC influenced the ways in which those spaces were used and what that means for future use of the center. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

Copyright Owner

Sheila Adele Lozano



File Format


File Size

201 pages