Date of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Marybeth Gasman

Abstract

Mexican American students have a long and proud history of enrolling in colleges and universities across the state of California for nearly 160 years, since shortly after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Yet, inexplicably, historians of higher education have virtually ignored the Mexican American experience in California higher education. Based on the examination of primary sources such as the diary of Californio Jesús María Estudillo, the records of the University of California, and the college student-led Mexican American Movement’s newspaper, The Mexican Voice, this study reconstructs the history of the Mexican American experience in California higher education from not long after statehood through World War II. The children of Californios (wealthy landholders who stressed their “Spanish” heritage) attended Santa Clara College and the College of Notre Dame from the early 1850s to mid 1870s, and Mexicans and Californios also took part in the preparatory program known as the Fifth Class at the University of California in the early 1870s. These members of the Mexican community participated in higher education in order to acquire the skills (such as mastering the English language) that best equipped them to maintain their station near the top of California society. By the 1930s, the sons and daughters of Mexican immigrants attended colleges and universities across California in numbers large enough to form student organizations such as the Mexican American Movement (MAM). This new generation of Mexicans viewed a college education as a means to have a better life for themselves, their family, and their community.

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