Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Renato Liboro

Second Committee Member

Rachael Robnett

Third Committee Member

Lianne Barnes

Fourth Committee Member

Gwen Marchand

Number of Pages



Across the United States, fewer high school students are enrolling in university and completing university. Scholars have suggested that ethnic studies may positively influence student engagement and potentially increase university enrollment. This dissertation will discuss the literature related to ethnic studies and critical race theory in relation to frameworks that have been positively associated with student retention. The study described in this dissertation explored if ethnic studies taken prior to attending university is related to positive student experiences during university. The aims of the study were to (1) test the relationship between ethnic studies and positive student experiences (i.e., critical consciousness, school engagement, social support, sense of community, and sense of belongingness) using quantitative data, (2) explore notable findings from the quantitative data through interviews to understand prominent factors that contribute to positive student experiences in ethnic studies, and (3) generate findings useful to educators, policymakers, and researchers interested in ethnic studies. The results of this sequential mixed methods study found that the more ethnic studies that students had taken, the more likely they were to report higher levels of critical consciousness, school engagement, and social support. Path analyses were conducted to explore how sense of community and sense of belongingness mediated the relationship between ethnic studies and dimensions of critical consciousness, school engagement, and social support. Lastly, qualitative findings that emerged from thematic analyses elucidated factors that contribute to positive studentexperiences, institutional barriers to learning ethnic studies, and student generated recommendations for improving classroom environments.

Controlled Subject

Mixed method research; College freshmen; Education, Higher



File Format


File Size

1960 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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Included in

Psychology Commons