By Claire Andersen
The College of Education welcomed assistant professor Elsa Gonzalez,
She began the project by collecting data from high school personnel, students and their parents from areas in the Rio Grande Valley. Gonzalez and her colleagues found that parents often wanted their children to go to college, but didn’t know the practical steps of education beyond high school. In response to this, Gonzalez’s team came up with practical steps, a curriculum for students and their parents to be prepared and continue their education in college and postgraduate studies.
Since then, Gonzalez has studied Latinas at various stages of education, from pre-K to postgraduate students. While other research has identified and explored the barriers and challenges faced by Latina students, Gonzalez aims to identify what makes these students successful. Beyond research, Gonzalez has a social justice agenda and purpose of supporting underrepresented STEM students and professionals in companies in particular in the energy industry in this area.
“I want to keep up a constant source of knowledge. It’s important to know the barriers and the challenges that [underrepresented students] face, but in my
As she collected data from small focus groups, she noticed strategy patterns amongst those who were successful in their studies and work. She identified several “cultural strategies” that all these women applied to
Gonzalez found that successful Latina students—young and mature alike—are resilient, persistent and nurturing team players. These characteristics, rooted in culture and experience, are what make Latina students valuable in both academic and professional worlds.
“Many of the strategies that they apply are based
Gonzalez’s plan for this project at UH is to continue collecting data from higher education students and professionals. More importantly, she expects to use her findings to positively impact the workforce here in Houston, in particular, the energy industry.
“At the end, companies here in Houston and everywhere need the data from that part of the