Higher Education Persistence Pathways (HEPP)

In affiliation with FSU’s CHERTI and CPS research centers, this initiative investigates the structures and supports which can foster postsecondary student success among underrepresented students, especially women, students of color, and low-income students who may also be the first-generation in their family to go to college. This research draws on sociological and life course frameworks to understand constraints and opportunities which can contribute to longer-term outcomes. Publications particularly focused on STEM are noted on the RESET project page. Teaching-inspired and service partnerships also contribute to assessment and evaluation projects under this umbrella, especially those with a social justice orientation. Recent work includes a randomized control study of a rent-free housing intervention at Florida universities, in partnership with the HOPE lab.

LAST – Latin@/x Aspirations, Success, and Transitions

A Latin@/x focus under the Higher Education Persistence Pathways umbrella includes projects on graduate student veterans, Latinx community spaces, school contexts, transitions to college, and gender.

Thematic Strands

Socialization, Sociology of Education, and Life Course

These manuscripts reflect the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that organize and structure my research, focusing on the influence of social contexts on young people’s educational experiences and outcomes. STEM-focused studies can be found under RESET.

College Access: Race/Ethnicity, Class, & Policy

Extending from her graduate work, Dr. Perez-Felkner has consistently been interested in pathways to educational attainment. These interests are particularly acute with respect to underrepresented minority youth, low-SES students, and high school and community factors that influence college going and retention. Her mixed-methods dissertation and master’s thesis both focused on high-aspiring ethnic minority youth, most of which were low-income and Latina/o. Since then, she has collaborated with graduate students and faculty colleagues on papers with specific attention to potential interventions, supports, and policies that can enhance underrepresented students’ access and persistence in college.

Transitions to College for Black and Latinx Students

This is why I pursued the Ph.D. The daughter of two first-genereation (first-gen) students and the step-daughter of another, the only one who finished college — and then a Masters’ in elementary ed — was my mother, who trained me from an early age to see sociologically the streets and neighborhoods of New York City as well as educational, racial/ethnic, and socionomic inequality within my family and the schools I visited and occupied. From my early years in parochial schools to a well-resourced sururban public school to top-tier private universities and counseling/mentoring work primarily with black and Latino high school and college students, I continued to observe and examine these inequalities as well as supports and structures that might lessen their effects and foster greater equity in opportunities to learn and pursue socioeconomic mobility. These studies, including my doctoral dissertation, represent scholarly efforts I have engaged in to pursue at heart the following question: what structures and mechanisms can enhance educational success for students of color, who have been historically underserved and underrepresented? My current research under this umbrella also includes intersectionality, low-income students, engineering students, student veterans, and students in HBCUs.

Representative Publications

Perez-Felkner, L., Ford, J., Zhao, T., Anthony, M, Harrison, J., & Rahming, S. (2020) “Basic Needs Insecurity Among Doctoral Students: What It Looks Like and How to Address It.” About Campus, January/February 2020, pp. 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086482219899649

Seventy-five years after the publication of Abraham Maslow’s seminal theory on the importance of basic needs (Maslow, 1943), we now know food, housing, and security also matter for college students’ learning and success. Sara Goldrick-Rab’s (2016) Paying the Price shined a light on basic needs insecurity in college, which may have seemed less important when postsecondary institutions were primarily designed for elites. Importantly, basic needs also matter for the increasingly diverse wave of doctoral students finding their way through U.S. research institutions. This article draws on narratives grounded in social justice and student success literature. We close with recommendations aimed at continuing to develop and retain future campus leaders, currently engaging in doctoral education.

Hanson, D., Perez-Felkner, L., & Thayer, D. (in press). Overview of Higher Education in the USA. In C. D. Clark & W. J. Jacob (Eds.), Bloomsbury education and childhood studies (Vol. Higher Education). London: Bloomsbury.

Perez-Felkner, L., Felkner, J., Nix, S., & Magalhães, M. (2020). The Puzzling Relationship between International Development and Gender Equity: The Case of STEM Postsecondary Education in Cambodia. International Journal of Educational Development. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2019.102102

Gender inequality persists in certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) postsecondary fields. Notably, cross-national evidence suggests the STEM gender gap is smaller, not wider, in less developed nations. This is the first known case study to examine this gap within a developing country: Cambodia. This study investigates the following question: how does development – specifically socioeconomic and gender equity indicators – affect women’s share of enrollment in specific STEM and STEM-related fields? Merging two sources of national data, we leverage provincial census figures and institutional administrative data to estimate women’s enrollment share in STEM as well as in specific fields (i.e., accounting, information technology, and health). Findings show women’s share of STEM and information technology majors is larger outside the capital. Further, socioeconomic development and urbanization indicators distinctly predict women’s share of health and information technology majors. These fields also have an inverse relationship between women’s share and gender egalitarian characteristics. We discuss potential explanations and implications for gender and inequality in higher education, within and between nations, in the context of larger theoretical debates on the nature of sex segregation.

Nix, S., & Perez-Felkner, L. (2019). Difficulty orientations, gender, and race/ethnicity: An intersectional analysis of pathways to STEM degrees. Social Sciences, 8(2), 1-29. doi: 10.3390/socsci8020043.

Is there a relationship between mathematics ability beliefs and STEM degrees? Fields such as physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science (PEMC) are thought to require talent or brilliance. However, the potential effects of difficulty perceptions on students’ participation in STEM have yet to be examined using a gender and race/ethnicity intersectional lens. Using nationally representative U.S. longitudinal data, we measure gender and racial/ethnic variation in secondary students’ orientation towards mathematics difficulty. We observed nuanced relationships between mathematics difficulty orientation, gender, race/ethnicity, and PEMC major and degree outcomes. In secondary school, the gap between boys’ and girls’ mathematics difficulty orientations were wider than gaps between White and non-White students. Mathematics difficulty orientation was positively associated with both declaring majors and earning degrees in PEMC. This relationship varied more strongly based on gender than race/ethnicity. Notably, Black women show higher gains in predicted probability to declare a mathematics-intensive major as compared to all other women, given their mathematics difficulty orientations. While interaction effects were not significant, this study’s nuanced findings suggest that both gender and racial/ethnic identities may influence the relationship between mathematics difficulty orientation and postsecondary STEM outcomes.

Perez-Felkner, L. (2019, online first). “Affirmative Action Challenges Keep on Keeping On: Responding to Shifting Federal and State Policy.” Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education. doi: 10.1080/13603108.2018.1529639. See also broad communication article in The Conversation.

In response to disparities in postsecondary access, governments have enacted policies to facilitate the admission of traditionally underrepresented students. Known as affirmative action in the United States, the legal justification of this approach has varied. This article describes the legal and political history of affirmative action, the social justice and then diversity rationales, and the importance of state policies and institutions. The article focuses attention on the responses of three highly diverse U.S. states – Texas, California, and Florida – to postsecondary affirmative action bans affecting their public flagship institutions. Each developed race-neutral achievement-oriented percentage plans intended to promote socioeconomic and racial diversity in their states’ institutions; these approaches did not meet their intended aims. While inequality shows no sign of shrinking, U.S. institutions and administrators must continue to adapt to a shifting landscape of state and federal policies poised to further curtail these diversity and social justice efforts.

Perez-Felkner, L., Thomas, K., Nix, S., Hopkins, J., & D’Sa, M. (2019). Are 2-Year Colleges the Key? Institutional Variation and the Gender Gap in Undergraduate STEM Degrees. Journal of Higher Education. 90(2), 181-209. doi: 10.1080/00221546.2018.1486641

Studies of gender gaps in STEM higher education rarely consider two-year colleges,
despite the fact that most enrollees are women. Situated in an interdisciplinary
literature on gender and inequality in students’ pathways to STEM higher education,
this manuscript uses Beginning Postsecondary Students: 2004/09 nationally
representative panel data on 5,210 undergraduates. The primary research question
posed is: how does initial college type influence the gender gap in STEM undergraduate degrees? First, we describe and illustrate distinct patterns in the degrees earned by men and women who initially enroll in two-year and four-year institutions. Leveraging rich control measures, we then estimate a series of multivariate logistic regressions to robustly estimate gender gaps in non-STEM, social/behavioral sciences, life sciences, and natural/engineering sciences degree fields. Results on these degree clusters are distinct, underscoring the limitations of “STEM” as an umbrella category. College type is more influential on life sciences and social/behavioral sciences; effects on natural/engineering sciences degrees are experienced primarily by men, especially among baccalaureate degree earners. Gender gaps in life and natural/engineering bachelor’s degree earners are wider among initial-two year students (favoring women and men, respectively). The
discussion contextualizes and offers implications from our findings.

Perez-Felkner, L., Gaston Gayles, J. (Eds.) (2018).  Special Issue: Advancing Higher Education Research on Undergraduate Women in STEM. New Directions for Institutional Research, vol. 179, pp. 1-137.

Perez-Felkner, L. (2018). Conceptualizing the field: Higher education research on the STEM gender gap. New Directions for Institutional Research, 2018(179): 11-26. doi: 10.1002/ir.20273

This chapter synthesizes research on women in STEM undergraduate fields and aims to sharpen our empirical and theoretical frameworks for future higher education research. Institutional research implications are discussed here and throughout the volume.

Šaras, E. & Perez-Felkner, L. (2018) “Sociological Perspectives on Socialization.” Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0155 Full text here.

This comprehensive manuscript synthesizes the literature on socialization for a broad readership, with an emphasis on the relevance for and history of socialization research within the discipline of sociology.

Orozco, R. & Perez-Felkner, L. (2018). Ni De Aquí, Ni De Allá: Conceptualizing the Self-Authorship Experience of Gay Latino College Men Using Conocimiento. 17:4, 386-394. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15348431.2017.1371018

This conceptual manuscript concerns the experiences of gay Latino men in college. Bridging literature from the fields of Higher Education, Sociology, and Latino Studies, we first explain how intersecting ethnic, gender, and sexual identities can act as compounding influences on students’ college experiences. Second, we review two distinct but complementary developmental theories: Baxter Magolda’s (1998, 2008) self-authorship and Anzaldúa’s (2002) conocimiento. Next, we apply these frameworks to develop a culturally responsive framework gay Latino college men’s pursuit of authentic identities. Self-authorship and conocimiento experiences (termed here: conociéndose y escribiéndose) might better enable gay Latino men to persist through college.

Perez-Felkner, L. (2015). Perceptions and Resilience in Underrepresented Students’ Pathways to College. Teachers College Record, 117(8). Full text available here, with TCR reprint rights.

Even in the age of school reform and expanded access, low-income, underrepresented students continue to work hard in their pursuit of college, risking family stress, health challenges, and burn out. Quality relationships with school teachers and peers seems to promote resilience, based on results of this three year, multiple method original case study. Students who perceive positive regard for their potential to succeed in school from school-based teachers and peers were found to have stronger transition to college outcomes. Given the challenges faced by even high-aspiring underrepresented youth, facilitating the development of these relationships appear to be a critical part of schools’ improvement and reform efforts.

Perez-Felkner, L. (2013). Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence. In J. DeLamater & A. Ward (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, 2nd Edition. (pp. 119-149) New York: Springer Publishing.

This chapter examines the development and operation of socialization in the lives of children and adolescents, with a focus on the mechanisms and consequences of socialization. Consideration is given to theoretical perspectives on (a) how children and adolescents learn social roles, (b) the role of agency in social development, (c) the social contexts in which socialization occurs, (d) socialization over the life course, and (e) how socio-historical change influences the socialization process. Methods of research inquiry relevant to studies of young people are reviewed, including experiments, survey methods, observational and ethnographic research, interviewing, and mixed methods research. Importantly, the social contexts of socialization are examined including families; peer and social networks; schools and work; communities and neighborhoods; and social and cultural forces. Particular attention is paid to the influence of socialization on later experiences, including identity, behavioral, and educational outcomes. Emerging and suggested directions for future research are discussed. *Consistently in the top 1% of articles downloaded on academia.edu.

Perez-Felkner, L. (2013). Occupational Aspirations/Expectations. In J. W. Ainsworth & G. J. Golson (Eds.), Sociology of education: An A-to-Z guide (Vol. 15, pp. 543-545). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452276151.n289 Full-text here.

This essay explains the importance of occupational aspirations and expectations within the context of sociology of education.

Perez-Felkner, L. (2013). Racial inequality: Returns to educational investments. In J. W. Ainsworth & G. J. Golson (Eds.), Sociology of education: An A-to-Z guide (Vol. 18, pp. 638-640). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452276151.n333 Full-text here.

This essay discusses how differences in the returns to education contributes to racial inequality of opportunity in education.

Perez-Felkner, L., Hedberg, E. C., & Schneider, B. (2011). The Changing Landscape for Educational Opportunity: Enhancing the Public Option for Black Youth. In D. Slaughter-Defoe, H. Stevenson, E. Arrington & D. J. Johnson (Eds.), Black Educational Choice: Assessing the Private and Public Alternatives to Traditional K-12 Public Schools (pp. 234-254). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Press. Full text here. See also APA link.

Leveraging two recent nationally representative US cohorts of secondary students (NELS:1988 & ELS:2002), we examined the degree to which an increasingly complex set of public school options has affected postsecondary matriculation for youth, with a particular focus on black youth. We accounted for the characteristics influencing students’ propensity to enroll in schools of choice. Comparing findings for students attending high school in the early 1990s and 2000s, it is notable that the predictive influence of race and socioeconomic status decreased over time, while other student characteristics and behavior increased in their influence on the transition to college. While math and science course taking predicted both two-year and four-year college matriculation in the NELS cohort, the influence of course taking did not meaningfully predict two-year college matriculation in the later ELS cohort. On average, we found that students attending a “school of choice” in high school were no more likely to enroll in four-year colleges, as compared to their peers in more traditional public schools.

Schneider, B. L., Ford, T., & Perez-Felkner, L. (2010). Social Networks and the Education of Children and Youth. In P. Peterson, E. Baker & B. McGaw (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Education (pp. 705-711). Oxford: Elsevier. See also Google Books link.

The social networks of children and youth are formed in the context of their families, peer groups, schools, and neighborhood communities. Researchers studying social networks of children and adolescents have primarily been interested in the formation of friendship relations and the impact of social location on academic achievement and social development. This manuscript provides an introduction to social network analysis, identifies key concepts and terms associated with this research methodology, and reviews some of the major social network studies of young children and adolescents.

Perez-Felkner, L. (2009). Cultivating college dreams: Social pathways to educational attainment. Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. See also ProQuest link.

This dissertation investigates the social mechanisms undergirding the pathways of working class, predominantly Latino adolescents pursuing post-secondary educational aspirations. In so doing, this study contributes to the study of how social capital operates within organizations toward educational outcomes. Between 2005 and 2008, I collected multi-method case study data in a Chicago charter school, using ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and two waves of survey data collection. This unique dataset was designed to enable comparisons between these students and their local and national peers, using matched measures from Chicago Public School data and the NCES Educational Longitudinal Survey of Youth, including important psychometric measures, such as a modified Rosenberg self-esteem scale, Phinney’s Multiethnic Identity Measure, and measures of self-esteem and well-being. This research responds to the dominant theoretical explanations for the ethno-racial gap in educational attainment: educational and socioeconomic resource shortages, cultural resistance and oppositional culture, stereotype threat and self-schemas, social capital and social networks, and ethnic identity development. Employing these longitudinal and multiple methods, this study presents a framework for understanding the students’ post-secondary pathways through a social lens. The results demonstrate the means by which institutional expectations promote high educational aspirations. The data explains how social ties within the school population might provide protective effects that further both the youths’ aspirations and actual attainment. For those students who change their ambitions or fail to realize their expectations, the longitudinal data enables an explanation of the mechanisms behind the reasons why their dreams “just don’t work out.” The study does not demonstrate any evidence for experience of stereotype threat while the students are in high school; it does however find explanations at the school culture level to anticipate such problems, which have varying effects at the individual level. Later waves of survey, interview, and school enrollment data demonstrate that matriculation and retention in these and other four-year colleges present more complicated and less linear trajectories.

Perez-Longobardo, L. (2005). Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and the Politics of Race and Citizenship. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 34(5), 490-491. doi: 10.1177/009430610503400515. See also journal link.