“Why you always so political?” The Experiences and Resiliencies of Mexican/Mexican American/Xicanx Students at a Predominantly White University

Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Dalia Rodriguez


Counter-spaces, Counterstories, Critical Race Theory, Higher Education, Mexican, Mexican American, Xicanx Students, Racism

Subject Categories



As of 2018, only about one in ten Mexican/Mexican American/Xicanx (MMAX) students

graduate with a college degree. Using ethnographic research methods such as in-depth interviews, participant observations, pláticas, and document analysis, this dissertation documents the narratives of 20 MMAX undergraduate students at a private, predominantly White university in Upstate New York. In this case study, I investigated the relationship between MMAX students’ experiences at predominantly White university and their participation in a MMAX- based student organization. Informed by Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Latino Critical Race Theory (LatCrit), this dissertation recognizes the MMAX students in this project as holders and creators of knowledge. Utilizing CRT counter-storytelling as a research method to communicate my literature review, methodology, and research findings and recommendations, each chapter in this dissertation is a story of survival and resiliency. In reconceptualizing environmental racism, I argue that the hostile campus environment experienced by MMAX students at this private, predominantly White university manifests itself as a form of educational-environmental racism. More specifically, I assert that educational-environmental racism is experienced by MMAX students through, but not limited to, three means: social interactions, a racialized landscape, and a lack of institutional support. Just as important, I found that participation in a MMAX-based organization served as a counter-space where MMAX students created a home away from home and challenged negativity.


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