Senior investigates Latinx identity formation in higher education

Personal experience motivated Karen Loya ‘19, a sociology major with a minor in inequality studies and Latina/o studies, to spend the summer researching at the University of California at Los Angeles.                            

“I conducted sociological work on Latinx students, which is related to both my major and minor,” Loya said. “But more importantly my work takes an education-approach to figure out how universities can better support their Latinx students.”

Loya, a Mellon Mays scholar, participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Writing and Research Training Program for Visiting Fellows. During the six-week program, fellows participated in a scholarly writing and research course, individual and group mentoring sessions, workshops, events and a final research colloquium.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program began in 1988 at eight universities including Cornell. It aims to boost the number of faculty members from groups underrepresented in higher education by encouraging fellows to enter Ph.D. programs.  

Loya is studying Latinx identity formation in higher education by looking at the ways U.S. universities influence and support their students, how identity is formed and the history of Latinx categorization in the U.S. Loya plans to use this research to write her honors thesis.

“My research is deeply tied to my personal experience at Cornell,” Loya said. “My identity and sense of belonging has been largely influenced by the discrimination I’ve faced at Cornell by being a Latina from an under-supported area and school.”

On campus, Loya is an intern for the Latina/o Student Success Office and is a co-chair for La Asociación Latina.

“I’ve had the privilege of learning about my identity, histories and people because of the Latina/o Studies program, the courses they offer and the Latinx community that I am actively involved in,” Loya said.

After graduation, Loya plans to pursue a Ph.D. and go into education to focus on Latinx student success.

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.

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 Senior investigates Latinx identity formation in higher education