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DACA Students and Study Abroad

Posted By Trixie Cordova, Friday, June 26, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

At Diversity Abroad, our mission is to increase the number of diverse and underrepresented students that are aware of and take advantage of global opportunities. Recently, I attended a NAFSA session that delved into the unique needs of undocumented college students. As one of the most underrepresented student groups, I was curious to learn more about how those of us in international education can better support these students. During this session, professionals that work closely with undocumented and/or otherwise underrepresented students (first generation, high financial need, etc.) discussed this issue at length, from the stigma students face once identified as undocumented, to their own personal challenges dealing with “imposter syndrome” in college. This session really made me reflect on what can be done to better support undocumented students -- aiding them both to succeed in college, as well as potentially study abroad.

I discovered that there is still so much to learn about what makes their experience as students so much more challenging than any other student group. As institutions await or take action based on federal and state level policies (see: DREAM Act definitions below) dictating what they can provide, educators find themselves in a unique position overall, but especially if and when those students express interest in studying abroad. So what do we know about undocumented students and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and how can we ensure that our work ultimately helps us maintain student dignity within the process?

Below are some definitions of the various ways students may choose to identify. These have been provided by the presenters of the NAFSA session, Best Practices for Working with Undocumented and ‘DACA’-mented Students:

Undocumented Student:

A foreign national residing in the U.S. without legal immigration status. It includes persons who entered the U.S. without inspection and proper permission from the U.S. government, and those who entered with a legal status that is no longer valid.

DACA-mented Student:

An immigrant youth who has obtained benefits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (work authorized and deferred action from removal) that was established by Executive Action on June 15, 2012. These benefits do NOT provide lawful status.

Federal DREAM Act:

A proposal that will lead to legal status for undocumented youth who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, have good conduct, other requirements

State DREAM Act:

Vary by state, do not give lawful status, but can allow undocumented students access to in-state tuition, financial aid, and/or other benefits

DACA and the DREAM Act are NOT the same, but one of the key benefits for ‘DACA’-mented students is the potential to travel abroad with advanced permission from the Department of Homeland Security, for employment, humanitarian and of course educational purposes -- including study abroad.

It’s important to understand the mere fact that students self-identifying as undocumented is both an incredibly courageous and frightening declaration. Meng So, the Director at UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student’s Program (USP), spoke about how USP began in part due to one student’s experience with a UC Berkeley professor he had admired. After seeking out this professor for a potential mentorship and revealing his personal hardships to get into college, this professor not only refused to be a mentor; he also questioned how that student was even admitted in the first place.

Unlike the aforementioned UC Berkeley professor, I believe it is every educator’s responsibility to put personal politics aside and provide support to those students who are courageous enough to expose their hardships and ask for help. While some educators may not understand the stigma associated with referring to students as “illegal,” it is important to have this conversation at an office, if not at the institution-wide level. Doing so can truly transform the environment in which these students find themselves, and allow educators to become allies in a greater social justice movement.

While we await for the federal DREAM Act to further bring peace of mind to some students, it is my hope that undocumented and ‘DACA’-mented students can at least feel safe in confiding in international educators about how they identify, and that we can continue seeking opportunities to support undocumented students to succeed -- either on campus or abroad.

Tags:  advising  study abroad  Underrepresented Students 

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Professional Development Opportunities to Learn More about Advising and Diversity

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 15, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

As we aim to increase access, inclusion, and diversity in international education, professional development is critical. Our offices and organizations can only be as successful as the level of training that has been provided to our staff who are directly supporting and indirectly impacting the students we serve. To this end, it is important that we begin to identify professional development opportunities to assist us in these endeavors. Although international education conferences are able to briefly touch on subjects of diversity and advising, the wide variety of topics that are discussed do not leave a lot of room for deep exploration of these specific areas.

Here are five conferences (in addition to the Annual Diversity Abroad Conference) to consider adding to your professional development plan to enhance your knowledge of diversity and advising in higher education.

NACADA Annual & Regional Conferences
NACADA is the Global Community for Academic Advising and is focused on building skills, knowledge, and awareness around topics of academic advising. Most study abroad advisors don’t view themselves as academic advisors, which can feel like a disconnect for the student. Consider attending this year’s NACADA conference, themed “What happens in advising, stays with students” to gain theoretical insight and practical tools for advising.
Annual conference typically held in October (though state drive-ins and regional meetings are held throughout the year)

NCORE - National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education
NCORE is a great opportunity to explore issues of race and ethnicity in American Higher Education. With sessions like “Stereotype Threat: A Threat in the Air, Mind and Body,” “Exploring How Faculty in Higher Education Respond to an Assessment of their Intercultural Competence,” and “How to Have Successful Classroom Discussions on Diversity Issues,” it’s clear that this conference can benefit everyone working to improve access, inclusion and diversity in international education from pre-departure to on-site and reentry.
Typically held in May

National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) Annual Conference
Although NADOHE is geared toward campus diversity officers, the rich discussion can also benefit those of us working in areas of diversity in international education. This year’s theme was “Getting It Done: Rising to Opportunities and Challenges in Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education.”
Typically held in March

Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Annual Conference
Although some study abroad offices consider themselves an academic unit and not as part of student services, there is a lot to be learned from the student engagement of student services professionals on our campuses. Since we are all interested in a common goal of crafting a valuable and enriching student experience, NASPA may be an opportunity to connect with your colleagues who work across campus and better understand their practices and learn from their experiences.
Typically held in March

Association for Orientation, Transition, & Retention in Higher Education NODA Annual Conference
NODA can provide insight into one of the key components of serving our diverse students well - preparation and orientation. With topics like “Online Orientation Trends: How To Measure Learning Outcomes & Assess Program Success”, this is sure to be a valuable event for the person responsible for orientation programming.
Typically held in late October/November (regular online learning and regional state workshops are held throughout the year)

We hope that you will consider adding one of these conferences to your professional development plan this year. There are many more conferences in higher education that can help you build knowledge, skills and awareness around topics of advising and diversity. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but hopefully this gives you somewhere to start. Have you participated in other conferences outside of international education that have been valuable? Which conferences would you add to this list?

Tags:  advising  diversity  Diversity Abroad Conference  professional development  professional skills 

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