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Kelly Nielsen
UC San Diego/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2013

Dissertation: Aspiring in Place: Low-Income Women and the Pursuit of Higher Education in the Outer City

Abstract: In the face of budget cuts that threaten access to public higher education in California, the Student Success Act of 2012 seeks to rationalize the allocation of space in the state’s open access colleges. It aims to do so through the management of students’ aspirations and college-going behaviors. However, we understand little of how aspirations form, change, and relate to action over time. This dissertation employs a mixed methods longitudinal research design to examine the aspirations and actions of low-income female community college students. Drawing principally on four waves of semi-structured interviews with sixty-three low-income female community college students, I analyze the aspiration-action dynamic within a broad yet geographically bounded context as they move through the higher education system. The findings will contribute to our understanding of critical conditions that enhance college opportunities for underrepresented students and inform our understanding of recent policy changes and their potential effects.

Adrienne Nishina, Ph.D.
UC Davis/human and community development

Junior Faculty Fellow, 2006

Title: Successful Pathways to High School Completion in an Ethnically Diverse Population

This study seeks to broaden knowledge of the effects of ethnic and racial diversity at the high school level on academic achievement. The study addresses two critical questions. First, how does the ethnic composition of the school influence academic trajectories in high school? Second, how does the timing of academic milestones, for example passing the California Exit Exam, impact academic performance and psychological adjustment. The sample consists of 1400 ethnically diverse 11th and 12th grade students from the Los Angeles area and is drawn from a larger longitudinal study that from began in their sixth grade year and will continue to follow them one year after high school graduation. The sample is dispersed in over 100 high schools across Los Angeles County. Research findings are based on students reports of school attitudes and experiences, psychological adjustment, and social experiences, as well as data from school records and high school characteristics.

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