BY ISN STAFF | November 10, 2014
Saint Peter’s University announced today the opening of The Center for Undocumented Students (TCUS). The mission of TCUS is to support the academic work of undocumented students at the University, to shed intellectual light on the political and economic realities of immigration in our world today and to create a community where undocumented students feel welcome. TCUS will work with community organizations, government agencies, high schools and other Jesuit colleges and universities to create better access to higher education and increase retention rates among undocumented youth.
“Saint Peter’s has proudly educated immigrant students since it first opened in 1872 and seeks to continue and enrich this tradition by extending its welcome and support to undocumented students, otherwise known as dreamers,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University. “We are proud to be a part of the large group of Jesuit colleges and universities that continue to advocate for dreamers.”
The Center for Undocumented Students at Saint Peter’s will also create curriculum and training for faculty, administrators and staff in order to build institutional support. The training will provide employees with the knowledge necessary to identify and appreciate the special needs of undocumented students. Trained faculty and staff will offer guidance to undocumented students on scholarship funding, academics, employment or education after college, and guidance with office visits on campus with departments such as enrollment services or financial aid.
“The opening of the center means so much to me because as an undocumented student, it allows me to get involved with this issue that personally affects me,” said Christian Ugas, Class of 2016 at Saint Peter’s University. Ugaz continued, “By getting involved with this center I will be able to help those are in need. It makes me extremely proud to call myself a student of the university.”
“Undocumented students face concerns and challenges beyond what is experienced by a traditional college student,” said Jennifer Ayala, Ph.D., associate professor of education at Saint Peter’s University. “They may have feelings of anxiety, isolation, loneliness or depression. In order to provide the appropriate support for these students we have the support of a number of departments on campus ranging from student activities to campus ministry.”
The University will also host monthly events throughout the academic year featuring immigration lawyers who will offer pro bono legal services and counseling workshops for undocumented students. Undocumented students will also be invited to participate in activities such as film festivals and potluck dinners with other members of the undocumented student community.
The Center for Undocumented Students is the result of a coalition of the Public Policy Program, the Social Justice Program and the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership, the Department of Sociology and Urban Studies, the Department of Political Science, the Department of Education, Campus Ministry, the Africana Studies Program, the Women’s Studies Program and the Latin American/Latino Studies Program.
Saint Peter’s University is one of a number of Jesuit universities that continue to increase their support for undocumented students. Loyola University Chicago recently became the first U.S. university to publicly accept undocumented medical students.
On Saint Peter’s announcement Christopher Kerr, ISN executive director said, “This announcement, coming during the anniversary week of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador is testament to the ability of Saint Peter’s administration and faculty to read the signs of the times and live out the school’s Jesuit mission grounded in “a faith that does justice.” Kerr continued, “like the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador, Saint Peter’s is truly responding to the realities of suffering and marginalization facing people in our country today.”
Sources for this story include Saint Peter’s University (www.saintpeters.edu).