Book review: “The Latina/o Pathway to the PhD” Edited by Jeanett Castellanos et al.


Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 12.51.29 AMI came across The Latina/o Pathway to the PhD shortly after reading Presumed Incompetent, edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez et al. While Presumed Incompetent is a great book, it does not include an in-depth discussion of Latinas/os navigating the educational system and ultimately earning doctorate degrees. After searching online for books that would speak to my interest in learning more about the experiences of fellow Latina/os in their pursuit of a doctorate degree and career in academia, I found The Latina/o Pathway to the PhD.

In addition to an overview of key education-related legislations affecting access to and completion from higher education for Latina/os, the authors provide multiple recommendations for institutions and educators to better serve Latina/o students. The book also includes existing research on the experiences of Latina/o students in high school, community colleges, and four-year institutions. One aspect that I enjoyed the most about the book is its inclusion of personal narratives. On the last nine chapters of the book, each author shares their own experiences and words of advice about pursuing a Ph.D.

What I learned: Given my experience as an undocumented Latina undergraduate and graduate student, I have already thought about how isolating the path to a PhD is for students of color. At the same time, I benefitted greatly from reading about the experiences of other Latinas/os who were former or current doctoral students. The minute I began reading the book I found myself not wanting to put it down. While I am not pursuing my Ph.D. this year because of financial circumstances, I hope to do so in the near future and this book provided me with much needed support, advice, inspiration, and motivation to keep going.

Who should read this book: I highly recommend this book to students of color currently attending or considering graduate school.  The advice, research, and resources shared in this book are pretty comprehensive across disciplines. At the foundation of our experiences are years of institutional injustices that result in economic, social, cultural, and educational barriers. As current and future Latina/o doctorate students, we are/will be one of few who are able to successfully attend a Ph.D. program. To give you a glimpse, consider the following:

“Out of every 100 Latina elementary students in the United States, 54 will graduate from high school. From these high school graduates, 11 will graduate from college, 4 will graduate from graduate or professional school, and less than 1 will receive a doctorate.”

Selected quotes:

“Although Latina/o children spend the majority of their days in educational institutions that attempt to foster learning and creativity, recent policies and legislation advocate for censored learning. As a result, Latina/o children face institutional barriers embedded within an educational system that heightens their school challenges, hinders their opportunities for intellectual knowledge, and stunts children’s imagination and ingenuity” (page 3).

“Historically, the system has blamed Latina/o students and their families for lack of academic persistence. Yet, as education aims to maintain learning communities for all children, particularly Latina/os, it is critical to determine the contextual factors (psychological, social, and cultural) that enhance or compromise educational growth and progress. Moreover, it is essential to acknowledge the education systems’ shortcomings and their societal implications” (page 32).

“Although students encountered racism, prejudice, cultural incongruity, and social adjustment challenges, many recognized the importance of developing a balance between personal and professional roles. Students emphasized the importance of spending time with family, creating cultural resurgence opportunities with peers and community, and attending to one’s needs” (page 281).

The book can be purchased on: Amazon for approx. $11 for a used copy and $20 new

If you have read the book or plan to check it out let me know. I would love to hear what others thought about the book.

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Categories: Applying to grad school

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1 reply


  1. Recommended readings if you are preparing for/attending graduate school | My Documented Life

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