Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Vijay Kanagala


Collegiate athletic programs at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

Division II institutions in the United States serve a two-fold purpose. They offer aspiring

student athletes access to college and opportunities to play competitive college sports.

Consequently, student athletes at Division II institutions experience personal and

institutional pressures to compete for championships while achieving academic success.

Increasing demands on today’s college student athletes’ athletic participation and

performance has a multitude of consequences that could influence their academic

performance and success in college. Simultaneously, these institutions and athletic

programs are also witnessing another phenomenon – a transformation in their student

population. Latino college student athlete matriculation continues to increase every year,

mirroring their non-student athlete counterparts in higher education. Their increased

enrollment on these college campuses necessitates higher education researchers to better

understand this understudied population. In furthering that endeavor, this inquiry sought

to illuminate an overarching research question: how does a Latino college athlete’s racial

identity influence their academic success and athletic performance?

Guided by Gloria Anzaldúa’s Theory of Borderlands (Borderlands/La Frontera: The

New Mestiza, 2012), this two-part qualitative study invited seven Latino college student

athletes’ to examine their racial-ethnic identity, their academic success, and their athletic

participation in Division II competitive sports. Through 12 semi-structured open-ended

interviews, the researcher examined the intersections between Latino student athletes’

motivation to do well in their respective sport and their motivation to perform well

academically. Among the major findings of this study, participants strongly identified

themselves as Nepantleras – border crossers who possessed an intrinsic ability to

seamlessly cross the world of academics and the world of athletics. Their movement

across these dual world realities, in addition to balancing the expectations of their Latino

familias y culturas, resulted in the participants rejecting the idea of one or the other

(student or athlete) and claiming a singular identity: Soy Estudiante Deportista.

Understanding and engaging with Latino college student athletes’ academic and athletic

experiences at Division II institutions is vital for college faculty, athletic directors,

coaches, student affairs professionals, and institutional administrators invested in their

success. This study offers these institutional agents recommendations to best support their

student athletes.



Number of Pages

146 p.