Research Projects

ACSUS (Academic and Career Socialization for Underrepresented Students), Lead-Principal Investigator

ACSUS is four year longitudinal case study (with co-PIs Rachelle Winkle-Wagner, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dorian L. McCoy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville) examining the critical bi-directional academic and career socialization experiences of BIPOC students in higher education. This study explores how one program, Project Scholar, supports BIPOC students in expanding their competencies for success in education, exposes students to undergraduate research, and creates a space where students maintain their cultural identities as part of their scholarly pursuits. This study examines the role of Project Scholar in fostering students’ dispositions towards career and graduate school aspirations. Interviews were conducted with a cohort of students, program staff, and program alumni. This study is funded by a seed grant from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.


Undocumented Students in Higher Education (USHE), Principal Investigator

USHE explores the educational experiences (access and persistence) of undocumented Latina/o/x students attending college in the Midwest (funded through a NASPA Region IV-East Research and Assessment Grant and the Faculty Initiative for Research/Scholarly/Creative Excellence (FIRE) Award from UW-W). For this study, I gathered 15 testimonios from undocumented students who attended multiple institution types (technical, two-year, four-year, PWI, MSI, public, private) across Wisconsin and Illinois. I focus on Wisconsin and Illinois because of the state-level policy contexts (in 2011 WI Assembly Bill 49 banned undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition and in 2003 IL Public Act 093-0007 granted in-state tuition for undocumented students). My scholarship explores how state and institutional policy and tacit practices shape undocumented students’ college choice and pathways, learning experiences and opportunities, and career planning which has received little scholarly examination to date.


“We Lift as We Climb”: Supporting First-Generation Students of Color Navigating College, Principal Investigator

In this study, I interviewed 28 BIPOC students at two Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) in the Midwest to investigate how significant relationships support first-generation BIPOC students in higher education. I draw on findings from this research to question contemporary modes of thinking about student success (often defined by access to prestigious institutions, persistence and graduation, and academic achievement). Students in this study define success not by their own achievements, but rather, by how many others they assist in pursuing a similar path. Historically, research on (as opposed to with) BIPOC students has approached their experiences from a deficit perspective, focusing on individualized experiences as opposed to critiquing the structures and practices that maintain inequality. My scholarship with BIPOC students highlights the centrality of communalism and shared success; students succeeded when they helped others around them. Work from this project also explores how Latina/o/x students bridge funds of knowledge and social reproduction theory bi-directionally to contribute to the college-bound habitus of their familia. Research from this study (all solo-authored) was published in The Journal of Higher Education, The Review of Higher Education, The Journal of College Student Development, and The Journal of Hispanic Higher Education.