Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea A. Hubbard, PhD; Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Alberto López Pulido, PhD; Gail Perez, PhD;


activist educators, Chicanas, cultural context, educational context, ethnic studies, families & family life, Feminist studies, Grounded theory, intersectionality, Latinas, Leadership studies, minority & ethnic groups, quaitative, San Diego County (California), significant life events, social change, social context, support system, women


An examination of the literature in the field of Leadership Studies exposes a void in understanding activism as leadership among Latinas/Chicanas. The contemporary theories of scholars including James MacGregor Burns (1978) and Joseph C. Rost (1993) suggest there may be shared qualities between specific concepts of leadership and the everyday working practices of Latina/Chicana activist educators. Yet, academics within the field of Leadership Studies have little knowledge of this relationship or the unique ways in which Latina/Chicana educators engage as leaders, activists and agents for change, specifically in educational communities. Research into women's studies, ethnic studies, and Chicana feminist studies alert us to the complex and important role that social context and the intersectionality of gender, ethnicity/race, and class play in the development of these educators' leadership styles. This qualitative research project uses a grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2006) to: (a) reveal Latinas/Chicanas' perspective of activism and its relationship to leadership; (b) understand how their perceptions and actions are influenced by gender, ethnicity/race, and class; and, (c) expose the influence of cultural, social, and educational context in shaping their activism and leadership. In-depth interviews were conducted with seven Latinas/Chicanas from various educational settings in San Diego County. Patterns and themes emerging from rich interview data were examined to construct an analysis of the meaning and relevance of activism in their lives and to discover how their activism was related to contemporary views of leadership. Findings show how the activist identity of the Latinas/Chicanas in this study was the result of a process of individual development that was shaped by circumstances resulting from their social location, support from familial and community mentors/models, significant life events, and educational experiences. Their heightened and evolving consciousness and social justice identity fueled their activism and leadership. The stories of their experiences demonstrate a theory of action that emphasizes a transformational and socially responsible leadership style – one that is focused on advocacy for students without privilege and status and closely tied to the social issues of their community.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies