Announcement of Ph.D. Higher Education Dissertation Defense Cynthia Nancy Sánchez Gómez: “Undocumented Students in New Jersey: Exploring Validation Experiences at Rutgers University-Newark”

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

ABSTRACT: There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including young individuals, often referred to as DREAMers, who moved to this country as children and have partaken in various aspects of this nation’s society such as their participation in higher education. Existing literature has identified barriers faced by undocumented students in higher education nationwide, including unique challenges in accessing, financing, and navigating college life. However, institutions of higher education have the autonomy in providing undocufriendly and undocuserving environments that may alleviate some of the undocumented students’ concerns not addressed at neither the federal nor the state levels. The study contributes to research on undocumented students in higher education by offering geographic and racial diversity often not included in this type of scholarly research. The in-depth qualitative inquiry examines a racially/ethnically diverse undocumented immigrant community within the state of New Jersey. By using a Critical Race Theoretical (CRT) perspective for undocumented communities and counterstorytelling as a methodological approach, this study includes the voices of 12 undocumented undergraduate students/alumni from Rutgers University–Newark, a minority-serving institution in New Jersey with continuous efforts in serving undocumented students. Thus, the study explored how institutional support and experiences of validation influence undocumented students’ overall college experience. Three main findings emerged from the data: (1) undocumented college students take non-monolithic approaches to systems of power, (2) humanity is at the center of authentic validation, and (3) undocumented pride is a developmental process. The study presented Rutgers University-Newark as an undocuserving institution where undocumented students experienced validation through various sources.

Keywords: undocumented students, validation, Critical Race Theory, Undocumented Critcal Theory, counterstories, undocuserving

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