Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Alma Flor Ada

Second Advisor

Rosita G. Galang

Third Advisor

Susan Katz


This study examined the origins and outcomes of disempowerment and marginalization in five first-generation, low-income college students who were participants in Student Support Services, a federally funded TRIO program at a large urban commuter state university. Using dialogic introspection and participatory research, the participants reflected on their experiences in the areas of disempowerment, marginalization, educational equity, oppression and the needs and concerns of first-generation low-income students. Generative themes fell into three areas: creating conditions for learning; silencing the voice; and resistance, persistence and hope. Themes that created negative experiences for the students included disparities between academic and personal cultures, lack of preparation and community, and the inability of faculty and staff to work with students from diverse backgrounds. These factors led to a feeling of lack of safety and a loss of voice and sense of self. The findings also highlighted the students' understanding of the importance of education, support, and hope in their lives as well as the imperative to share their knowledge with others. Necessary conditions for the success and empowerment of first-generation low-income students include a strong support system in the form of programs specifically targeting the population, as well as a faculty and staff that are aware of their needs and concerns. Future research should consider origins of disempowerment of students who successfully complete college as well as the development of goal-directed behavior; and the impact of traumatic events on the academic success-of first-generation low-income students. Future research can be replicated with Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search students, two TRIO populations that graduate to become SSS students.