Publication Date

Summer 8-10-2020

Document Type

Action research project: Open access

Degree Name

MA Higher Education Leadership


Leadership Studies


Higher education professionals can better support struggling students by having more of an awareness of their experiences and how their mental health is related to the identities they hold. As a first-generation Latina college student, I am reminded of my own experiences and struggles, which impacted my sense of belonging and academic success. My action research responds to the question: "What are the mental health concerns that first-generation students studying at the University of San Diego (USD) encounter?" After making changes to my research because of unforeseen circumstances, I designed a study focusing on graduate students with cycles consisting of a short online survey and semi-structured individual interviews. The short survey included questions measuring stigma, their experiences receiving support from USD mental health resources, and the effects of COVID-19. These participants were invited to participate in one-on-one interviews to dive deeper into their responses to the survey. Through this research study, I was reminded of the impact dialogue can have in breaking down stigma and identifying new approaches that could encourage students to reach out for support. I also reflected on my experiences and leadership as a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) Leadership program.


Recipient, Outstanding Student of the Year Award, 2020.