Nuñez, A. M. (2009). A critical paradox? Predictors of latino students’ sense of belonging in college. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2(1), 46.
Data from the Diverse Democracy Project Study, a national longitudinal study of 1st-year students enrolled in 4-year public research universities who were followed into their 2nd year of college, were used to explore background characteristics and college experiences associated with Latino students’ sense of belonging. A framework including perceptual and behavioral dimensions of campus climate was used to organize the analysis. The direct or indirect effects of positive diversity experiences, perceptions of a hostile racial/ethnic climate, other perceptions and behaviors regarding college experiences, and immigrant status on sense of belonging were examined. Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that measures of positive diversity experiences and engagement in the campus community were positively associated with sense of belonging and with perceptions of a hostile racial/ethnic climate. Being a 2nd-generation immigrant was negatively and indirectly related to sense of belonging. These findings indicate that Latino students find a sense of belonging in a more complex, paradoxical way than traditional theories of college transition would imply. Effectively measuring relationships among campus climate indicators for various racial/ethnic groups may require more sophisticated methodological approaches.