Scholars-in-Residence Program

Undocumented students face a multitude of barriers when pursuing higher education. One such barrier that persists is acquiring the sufficient skills and opportunities to prepare them for life after graduation. Prof. Enriquez collaborated with the UCI DREAM Center to create the Scholars-in-Residence (SIR) Program to support students in their professional development and preparation for pursuing graduate and professional education.

 The SIR program is the first of its kind to offer professional development opportunities to undocumented undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students. During the funded pilot year, two undocumented graduate students and two undocumented professional students were competitively selected to serve as scholars-in-residence at the UCI DREAM Center. Under Director Oscar Teran and Faculty-in-Residence Dr. Laura Enriquez’ supervision, the graduate scholars-in-residence (SIRs) developed programming to support undocumented undergraduate students in accessing research and internship experiences and improving post-graduate preparation. Each of the four Scholars-in-Residence received professional development and mentorship training and a $2,000 fellowship stipend funded by UCI Graduate Division and the Schools of Humanities, Law, Social Ecology, and Social Sciences.

Graduate SIRs focused on: 1) developing and running eight informative graduate/professional school workshops, 2) mentoring 4-6 assigned undergraduate student mentees as they develop an internship application or UROP/SURP research proposal, and 3) holding weekly office hours. Winter 2018 was dedicated to introducing graduate school, the application process, and teaching how to build relationships with faculty. Spring 2018 focused on supporting students in completing their chosen internship or UROP/SURP research proposal applications. Workshops were held to teach students how to write their personal statements, research statements, project proposals, CV/resume, and cover letters. Graduate SIRs mentored and oversaw 9 UROP/SURP proposals and 17 internship applications. The Scholars also offered workshops at the DREAM Scholars’ Rising Together, Thriving Together undergraduate conference which provided professional development to over 80 UCI undocumented student attendees.

        Mentorship: SIR participants received mentorship which allowed them to gain knowledge on how to pursue their desired careers and how to approach a post-graduate education. An undergraduate student discusses how attending weekly office hours with a SIR facilitated completion of her SURP proposal: “They helped me strengthen my personal statement, and provided feedback on my SURP proposal. Ultimately this allowed me to receive a research fellowship where I will be working on my writing sample for graduate school which will be turned into an academic research article.” In having an undocumented mentor, she not only received encouragement to be upfront about her immigration status in her personal statement, but it also allowed her to further reflect on her experience and how it impacts her research interests. In total, graduate SIRs held forty-five appointments (approximately thirty minutes each) during their tenure.
          Completing and Strengthening Applications: Undergraduates discussed how Spring workshops gave them the knowledge to prepare a resume, and cover letter. One student shared, “I primarily organize events at the [DREAM] center and I did not know how to add the work I did onto my resume, but the Graduate SIRs taught me how to add my experiences onto my resume to make me more competitive for jobs or internships.” Participating in these workshops allowed
undocumented student to learn strategies to incorporate “invisible” work and skills into their resumes and reframe non-traditional aspects of their work and career-preparation history.
          Advanced Start of Graduate School Applications: Students who participated in SIR were able to plan and begin their graduate school applications. An undergraduate student reflects, “SIR helped me come to the conclusion that I want to go to law school and become a lawyer. Graduate SIRs helped me start the process of looking into programs and coming up with a plan that would make me a more competitive applicant.”

          Developing leadership and service skills: Carrying out a program to service the larger undocumented undergraduate community on campus allowed for graduate SIRs to develop leadership skills. One graduate SIR reflects on what the position means to them, “Through SIR, I’m able to help and mentor undocuSTEM students as they navigate the graduate school application system, discuss application materials, and help ease the process.” In their role as a graduate mentor they became motivated to be an engaged scholar who works with marginalized students. The program provided graduate SIRs with skill building opportunities and allowed to receive formal recognition and compensation for their mentoring work. Some of the graduate SIRs were already doing this service in some capacity, and the program served to make this work visible in their CV and service profile. Other graduate SIRs were able to build new skills.

          Increased competitiveness for fellowship funding: This experience made graduate SIRs more competitive for subsequent fellowship applicants. Two graduate SIRs shared that they reflected on their SIR experience as a motivation for apply for a related external fellowship. They both drew on their SIR experiences to demonstrate their competitiveness for the fellowship.

          Providing opportunities to explore career options: Working directly with undocumented students gave graduate SIRs a unique experience to explore career options. One SIR, a third-year law student, reported that this experience dramatically changed his career trajectory; he was previously on track for a career in corporate law when the experience ignited a passion for serving undocumented students. Upon graduation, he accepted a position to work with a non-profit
organization geared to supporting the educational equity of undocumented students.

• Engage graduate SIRs in a more structured and holistic training on how to work with undergraduate undocumented students. This includes providing a set of standard resource materials that can effectively guide the one-on-one office hour meetings.
• Programming should run throughout the entire academic year. This will allow for undergraduate students for prepare for their internship/research applications sooner; students were rushed by the current format as the application timelines are in mid-April.
• Undergraduate students should be organized into a structured cohort of undergraduate fellows to enhance the mentorship component of the program. This would effectively replace the CAI cohort to ensure that we have a strong cohort of students to be assigned to a mentor and tracked throughout the application process.
• Graduate SIRs should collaborate with the Dream Scholars program to help plan their professional development/graduate school preparation conference for undocumented undergraduates. SIRs participated as presenters but were an untapped resource of support.

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Laura E. Enriquez – Assistant Professor, Chicano/Latino Studies

Dr. Laura E. Enriquez holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She earned her undergraduate degree in Sociology and History from Pomona College. During her time there she began working closely with undocumented immigrant students. Building on this work, she has researched, presented, and published on a range of issues related to the educational, economic, political, and social experiences of undocumented young adults who immigrated to the United States as children.

Currently she is working on a book manuscript tentatively titled, Of Love and Papers: Forming Families in the Shadows of Immigration Policy. Drawing on qualitative interviews with undocumented young adults and their romantic partners, the book explores how immigration-related laws impact the family formation experiences of undocumented immigrant young adults, their romantic partners, and their citizen children. Continue reading…