Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl A. Getz, EdD, Chair Nydia Sánchez, PhD, Member Alejandro Joel Mejía, PhD, Member Marissa Vásquez, EdD, Member Antonio Jimenez-Luque, PhD, Member


Community College Leadership, Latina/Chicana, Borderlands, Conocimiento, Higher Education, Intersectionality


Latinas’ persistent underrepresentation in community college executive leadership contrasts their increasing educational matriculation, educational attainment, and proportion of the California and U.S. populations, suggesting Latinas are blocked from vital leadership opportunities. This is problematized by Latina’s historical exclusion along gendered, racialized, and class lines manifested in the contested U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Research scarcity exploring Latinas’ leadership perceptions and meaning-making processes has perpetuated leadership inequities and created a knowledge gap which ultimately undermines the calls for diverse and transformative leadership to achieve the nations college completion agenda.

This qualitative study employed a multimodal, plática-based approach of testimonio and collective reflexión to explore conocimiento in the leadership development of thirteen intergenerational Latina community college leaders in San Diego’s U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Specifically, two group pláticas and 1 semi-structured plática with each participant were conducted. Conocimiento theory was the primary theoretical framework for data analysis, in addition to borderlands theory, gendered organizations, and Chicana/Latina feminist thought. Data analysis was presented through composite testimonio counterstories by distilling testimonios into five composite characters.

Findings illustrate community colleges created institutional desconocimiento (organizational bias and willful ignorance perpetuating dominant norms) through mechanisms such as leadership choques, multibind predicaments, and the educational housekeeper phenomenon. Latinas challenged limiting scripts and asserted agency through transformational scripting—agentic personal and collective interpretations of educational leadership. Additionally, Latinas learned to navigate institutional desconocimiento by employing strategizing techniques to resist assimilative pressures and lead authentically. Strategizing techniques included: (1) using nagüalismo for transformation, (2) developing a toxicity radar, (3) engaging in self-work, (4) nourishing the spirit, (5) pursuing graduate work and (6) leadership development. A model of conocimiento leadership is presented conceptualizing how Latinas lead at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels. Recommendations for leadership preparation include applying and institutionalizing conocimiento leadership principles to develop effective and measurable academic and organizational leadership initiatives complementing the American Association of Community Colleges leader competencies. Research implications include a call for increased research in: (1) the intersectional experiences informing Latina educational leadership, (2) conocimiento across the educational pipeline, (3) the role of transformational scripting in transformative educational leadership, and (4) components and manifestations of institutional conocimiento.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only


Leadership Studies