Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2009

Capstone Advisor

Marjorie DeVault

Honors Reader

Amy Lutz

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Community-Based Research | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Place and Environment | Sociology


My Capstone project examined the complexities within Puerto Rican ethnic identity. While this project did not set out to resolve one specific problem, its aim was to further explain the variations that often occurs under one ethnic label. Many people assume that ethnic groups are homogeneous, and I was interested in further exploring the idea and disproving this assumption.

Specifically, I was interested in exploring the various understandings that island-born and mainland Puerto Rican students have about their self-identity. Also, I was interested to see the ways in which these students manage their identities in the presence of others. My primary research questions were: 1) how do Puerto Rican students choose to identify and display their identity on a personal level, and 2) how do they manage their identities within a larger context on a predominantly White campus.

For my Capstone Project, I conducted 10 in-depth interviews withSyracuseUniversitystudents who self-identified as Puerto Rican. My recruiting methods consisted of mass e-mails across the Latino listserv and several student organizations which had a membership primarily consisting of students of color. Once initial participants were selected, the snowball method was used. This meant that students that I interviewed referred me to other students that they though may also be interested in participating. However, one weakness in using this method was that I was only aware of a small proportion of the Puerto Rican population on campus.

Interviews were conducted in private and quiet closed study-rooms. The interviews lasted between 30 minutes and an hour and a half. During the length of the interview, participants discussed their home lives, lives at the university and their feelings about self-identity and Puerto Rican identity. The participants were aware of my role as a researcher. While many did not inquire, I was also open about my motivations in doing the research and that I was not of Puerto Rican descent. Of the 10 in-depth interviews conducted, seven of the students were island-born Puerto Ricans and three were US born Puerto Ricans.

My research evidence came from the interviews. Each student provided a wealth of information that discussed their own identity and life experiences and their opinions about others. Since this project focused on qualitative research, there were minimal instances of statistics to provide further evidence.

In conclusion, the data revealed that Puerto Rican students’ understandings of their identity, and their decisions as to how to present it to others, were multifaceted. Throughout the interviews, a sense of pride of Puerto Rican identity came through; however the details of this identity differed greatly among the students, especially between the island-born and mainland students.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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