Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Career Support Group for Latino/a College Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Career Support Group for Latino/a College Students

Article excerpt

Culturally derived career counseling groups constitute a potentially promising way of providing supportive experiences for Latino/a college students. These groups can facilitate Latino/a students' help-seeking behavior, address general college transition needs, add new coping skills, resolve developmental issues, and respond to career concerns. The author finds these groups useful for promoting overall wellness; improving academic performance, retention, and graduation rates; and enhancing successful transitioning into the job market and/or the continuation of postgraduation plans.


Although Latino/as represent one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, they continue to be concentrated in unskilled, service-oriented, clerical, and midlevel technical occupations (Guzman, 2001). Education is one limiting factor underlying these occupational trends, as Latino college graduation rates remain at around 10% despite pro-diversity recruitment and retention efforts. Nevertheless, researchers have consistently found that Latino/as hold career aspirations similar to those of other ethnic groups (Flares & O'Brien, 2002; Quintana, Vogel, & Ybarra, 1991; Sciarra & Whitson, 2007), which raises the question, What is preventing Latino/as from achieving those aspirations?

Gross (2004) identified barriers related to educational access, economic resources, and political opportunities as factors influencing the career development of Latino/a students. Regarding higher education in particular, it is also important to recognize that Latinos/as experience university environment and student life in unique ways that differ from those of the majority-group students and students of other culturally diverse groups (Gloria & Robinson Kurpius, 1996; Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000; Rivas-Drake & Mooney, 2008). This includes differences in the college transition and adjustment process, ethnic identity development issues, availability of social support systems, and perceptions of the college institutional climate itself. Moreover, just as the Latino experience differs from the experiences of other ethnic groups, there is also substantial diversity among Latino/a students: within-group differences in socioeconomic status, generational status, degree of bilingualism, acculturation and assimilation levels, parents' educational level, and migration patterns from the country of origin (Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000). All of these factors play a significant role in understanding Latino/a students' academic and career goals and outcomes. In addressing these issues, the purpose of this article is twofold: (a) to discuss salient factors that I believe influence Latino/a college student retention, graduation, and successful movement to the job market and (b) to identify key facets of a career support group for Latino/a college students.

The formation of on-campus Latino/a career support groups constitutes a valuable opportunity to address Latino/a students' transition to college life while systematically focusing on the career development process. It is proposed that this cultural competent approach can be an effective tool to facilitate overall wellness and ethnic identity; increase academic performance, retention, and graduation rates; and favor a successful transition to the job market and/or continuation of postgraduation plans.

Institutional Climate

Proponents of Latino critical theory state that race and racism intersect with other dimensions of Latino identity such as language, generation status, gender, sexuality, and class (Delgado Bernal, 2002). According to the theory, based on levels of assimilation and acculturation, these various dimensions of identity can interact to elicit equally varied experiences of oppression that go beyond ethnic membership. For example, one Latina student may experience college as a time of isolation because of her ethnic minority status, and another may have a similar negative experience that has more to do with her status as a woman with limited English proficiency who comes from a low socioeconomic status background. …

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