Living Testimonios: How Latinx Graduate Students Persist and Enact Social Justice Within Higher Education

Lisa Phillips, Raquel Deleon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


About the case: First-generation Latinx students in technical and professional communication (TPC) and other graduate programs represent a growing percentage of students, yet stories of their experiences within higher education remain muted. We analyzed 10 Latinx testimonios (culturally situated narratives) wherein they voice their experiences as first-generation students in US graduate programs. Testimonialistas expressed how they navigate the complexities of being first-generation students and described how they persist and enact social justice. Situating the case: TPC programs may examine the relationship between social injustices and student retention and recruitment efforts, yet there is a dearth of literature regarding specific obstacles that Latinx students face. We examined how they build success through coalitional action and culturally informed tactical decision-making. Methods: We recruited participants who self-identified as first-generation Latinx students in TPC and other graduate programs. We conducted and recorded semistructured interview sessions based in testimonio and intersectional feminist methodologies. We used qualitative data coding and MAXQDA coding software to assemble and map social justice themes at work across the testimonios. Results: Analysis suggests that first-generation Latinx graduate students draw on complex informal and formal networks to aid their success, desire more effective culturally responsive mentorship, and develop tactical decision-making skills to circumvent oppressive behaviors. Conclusions: We suggest that directors, mentors, administrators, faculty, and Latinx students begin with a social justice framework to better listen to, understand, and address first-generation Latinx college experiences and build cohort-based support mechanisms into programmatic objectives and professional development sessions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-212
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • First-generation Latinx students
  • Social justice
  • Testimonio


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