Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl A. Getz, Ed.D., Frank R. Kemerer, Ph.D., and Lea A. Hubbard, Ph.D.


Latina, Leadership, Mexican, Phenomenology, Principal


California is home to almost 15 million Latinos, however, according to the 2015 State of Higher Education Report for California, only 12% of the Latino population between the ages of 25 and 64 has a baccalaureate degree or higher, compared with 42% of the White population. Latina students have some of the lowest levels of educational attainment at every point in their K-12 journey and in general, very low occupational attainment. Given these troubling findings, this research sought to understand and tell the stories of Latinas in k-12 leadership positions in Southern California. In this study, Latinas describe how they successfully navigated through and were able to overcome many disparities to become effective educational leaders.

The research questions that guided this study were: (a) How do Latina school principals describe their lived experiences as an academically successful Latina student in grades K-12? (b) How do Latina school principals describe their lived experiences during and after college as related to their development as leaders? (c) In what ways does the organizational culture of the K-12 setting influence or is influenced by a Latina leader? Using phenomenological research methods, in depth individual interviews with 10 Latina leaders examined how and in what ways participants prior experiences impact and manifest in their leadership practice.

Some literature describe a hybrid space, which is the ethnic and mainstream culture that many Latinas must negotiate. However, results from this study support the addition of a third organizational culture, one that develops as a result of having authority within an educational institution. Thus this study posits that Latina leaders negotiate three cultures while leading: ethnic, mainstream and organizational culture. This research also found that some barriers in the United States that Latinas describe might also positively contribute to their development as leaders.

The significance of this study is the possibility that the personal and professional experiences, as told in the stories that Latina educators shared, may enhance our understanding of this at-risk population, aiming to contribute positive counter-stories as exemplars and models for Latina youth living in the U.S.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies