Award Date

December 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Committee Member

Christine Clark

Second Committee Member

Jori Beck

Third Committee Member

Doris Watson

Fourth Committee Member

Howard Gordon

Number of Pages



This qualitative case study examined the experiences of three Latina students in a higher education service-learning program. A review of service-learning literature found limited research dedicated to understanding the qualitatively different experiences of students of color operating in historically and predominantly white higher education institutions’ service-learning programs. Though the diversity benefits of service-learning are documented, research is inconclusive on whether service-learning program culture adequately meets the needs of all racially/ethnically diverse students. The study utilized student interviews and classroom observation to build understanding of the unique experiences of three Latina students participating in a service-learning course taught by a Latina instructor at a large public Minority Serving Institution (MSI) in the southwestern United States.

Results of this study revealed that all three Latina students had overall positive experiences in the service-learning course; these experiences included an inclusive classroom environment, feeling encouraged to share personal experiences on issues of oppression and power, and gaining an overall sense of agency and empowerment for engaging in the community. The professor’s race/ethnicity was important to the Latina study participants who felt that her proud Latina identity made her more relatable and a positive role model of a strong, civically engaged Latina woman in a white male-dominated world. Factors that were found to influence disengagement from service-learning in this study include lack of awareness, scheduling conflicts, socioeconomic status, age, nationality, and exposure to community engagement growing up. Study participants agreed that, most often, issues of race and equity were brought up in the course by individual students sharing personal stories in connection with the course content. This study suggests that service-learning courses in which students of color enjoy positive experiences are also reflective of culturally responsive classrooms that value the unique experiences of racially/ethnically diverse students. The results of this study provide a model for culturally responsive service-learning design and offer recommendations for future studies on the differentiated experiences of racially/ethnically diverse students based on the identity of the course instructor and level of cultural responsiveness being implemented in the classroom.


cultural competence; curriculum & instruction; diversity; service-learning


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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