Date of Award

Fall 11-12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Maria de Lourdes B Serpa

Second Advisor

Dr. Branca Telles Ribeiro

Third Advisor

Dr. Haner Hernandez


This qualitative study examined the lived experiences of seven undocumented immigrant college students living in Massachusetts as they negotiated the sociocultural, socioeconomic, and institutional challenges of their college experience. Three research questions guided this study: (1) What role do undocumented college students believe sociocultural factors play in influencing an immigrant student’s successful college experience? (2) What were the various ways undocumented college students reported institutional and economic factors that affected their college experiences? (3) How did the students develop resilience to overcome social and systemic setbacks while pursuing higher education? A narrative methodology was used, and the participants were selected using a snowball sampling approach. Each participant was interviewed twice, with a protocol to protect their status and identity. Data was coded and analyzed in themes using MAXQDA. Findings in this study revealed that study participants experienced limited opportunities as new immigrants contributing to feelings of dislocation and isolation. Other findings indicated that participants experienced feelings of cultural and financial responsibilities towards family in the U.S. and their home countries, as well as stigmatization, marginalization, and feelings of fear, shame, and discrimination because of their immigrant status. They reported that they experienced unique institutional, social, financial barriers/obstacles in furthering their post-secondary education, which impacted their remarkable resilience. All participants reported having found someone they trusted as a “mentor”. Recommendations included college and high school staff training, institutional scholarships, career development, and advocacy initiatives to change current unfair and inhumane policies toward immigrant students and their families. Despite all of the challenges faced, these immigrant college students graduated from college.


Immigrant Social Justice and Policy Study.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.






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