Our 2020-2021 Distinguished Dissertation Award winner was Dr. Rosalinda Ortiz. Dr. Ortiz earned her EdD in Higher Education with a concentration in Community College Leadership in 2020.
Dr. Ortiz’s advisor Dr. Amanda Latz said that, “Dr. Ortiz’s dissertation research was a true embodiment of all she is—an amazing and hard-working researcher, scholar, and thinker, a champion for education as a way to a better life, a pedagogue, a mother, and a Hispanic woman. She came through a community college as a student. She worked within the community college sector. Her son participated in dual enrollment and then matriculated to a four-year institution. She lived this dissertation prior to writing it. That is extraordinary. She now knows intellectually what she has known intuitively and experientially. That was one reason why I nominated her. The other reason is the belief that her work will be very useful and applicable in the policy and practice space, something she is endeavoring toward right now. Rosalinda was a pleasure to work with, and she has such a bright future ahead of her. I am thrilled for her.”
Here is a Q & A with Dr. Rosalinda Ortiz
What made you select your research topic?
I grew up in a predominately Hispanic, small, rural town along the Texas/Mexico border. Neither side of my extended family had any knowledge or background in higher education. However, both my parents were determined that my four sisters and I graduated college. As a first-generation college student, navigating my way through college was overwhelming. After earning my master’s degree, I began teaching at a community college that offered dual credit courses. As a professor and administrator, I saw first-hand how high school students were earning college credit and how this program was helping them prepare for the transition to a 4-year university. For me, researching this topic more in-depth would be a great way to help students get a leg up on the college process especially for first generation, Latino students who, like me, didn’t have the experience or understanding of the college process.
Please tell us about your research?
My dissertation, Illuminating Liminal Spaces: A Phenomenological Investigation of Hispanic Students’ First-Year Experience at a Four-Year University with Prior Dual Credits, is one iteration of a longer longitudinal research project to understand how Hispanic students progress to and through dual credit programs. It is my contention that we cannot look at one singular student milestone to determine whether educational programs have positive longstanding success. It is our job as practitioners and researchers to understand how students navigate their way through higher education at every level and provide them with tools to further their goals.
In my dissertation I appeal to high schools, community colleges, and universities to collaborate and provide students with better resources for their transition to and through each institutional entity. It was apparent in the findings that each of the stakeholders were siloed, which makes it difficult for students to find their footing. It was very discouraging to discover that even the most academically prepared students were struggling when they attended the four-year university. Many found themselves in this liminal space where they were not eligible for first-time freshman resources. Also, they could not relate to their age level freshman peers, yet they did not fit in with their academic peers in their junior level courses. I believe as community college researchers, we are primed for bringing about these conversations and collaborations because we host the majority of dual credit programs and we are well versed in the nuances of higher education.
What brought you to Ball State University?
I came to Ball State because of the financial support and educational opportunities from Teachers College. As a single parent of a college student, I could not afford to pay for both of us to attend college. At BSU, I was awarded a graduate assistantship, which provided a stipend and the cost of tuition. This was a tremendous help. As I progressed through the program, I found tremendous support and encouragement from my professors who became mentors and advocates for my research on Latino student success. They have championed my work within the institution to which I was recognized for several awards including the Indiana Women of Achievement and Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholar. They have also supported and encouraged me within the larger academic sphere with numerous states, national, and international conferences and professional development. I came to BSU based on finances but I stayed and thrived at the university because of the faculty to whom I will always be grateful.
What are your future goals/career goals?
I will continue to follow this cohort and publish research related to their progression through their undergraduate degree. I hope to complete a book proposal, which encompasses all of the longitudinal research that I have conducted with this cohort of students. The research projects I have conducted throughout my time at Ball State included interviews with Latino high school students participating in dual credit programs as well their families. Combined with this dissertation, my hope is that I can provide a holistic representation of Latino student’s progression through their undergraduate degree. My career goals include university teaching as well as contributing to research to effect policy change that will close the gap for underrepresented students, especially the first-generation Latino population.
Anything else you would like us to know?
In my almost 40 years of life, I had never lived more than 2 hours away from my family or community in South Texas. I took a leap of faith to move, by myself, across the country (21-hour drive) to further my education; to be the first in my family (immediate and extended) to earn a doctorate degree. All my research is a love letter to my family, my community, and my Latino culture to acknowledge the sacrifices that were made to get me this far. I honor them with this work and use this as a platform to show that Latinos are strong, hardworking, dedicated people whose lives and struggles are part of the fabric of our country. As one of us takes a step ahead, we always reach our hand back to help the next one up. For together we all succeed because we are all in one way or another familia. Pa‘lante.