Professor will speak tonight to discuss undocumented students’ engagement in activism in the public education system

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

UC Riverside Professor Jennifer Najera will give a talk tonight at 6 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center (MCC) lounge on work being done within the undocumented student movement to create new learning spaces and to expand people’s perspectives on who can be a teacher.

The talk, titled “Challenging the Borders of Education: Undocumented Students and Public Pedagogy,” is part of the MCC’s Race Matters series that features professors leading discussions on the types of adversity different racial groups face. Najera will focus her discussion on how undocumented students are engaging in activism in the public education system.

Najera said students should be aware of minority groups on and around campus.

“If we want to be informed and engaged in our society, we cannot ignore our neighbors and what they might be going through,” Najera said. “It is important for UCSB students to know who is in their community, what issues, politics these people are facing and the situation they are in to help us make better choices.”

MCC publicist and marketing coordinator Carol Dinh said Najera’s talk aims to create a safe atmosphere for students to discuss undocumented students’ challenges.

“This lecture in particular will help bring more attention to the status of undocumented students at our university, with the aim of creating a safe space where students can ask questions and learn how to be proactive to defend the right to education for all young people,” Dinh said.

If we want to be informed and engaged in our society, we cannot ignore our neighbors and what they might be going through. – UC Riverside Professor Jennifer Najera

Only five to 10 percent of undocumented students graduating high school have the opportunity to attend a university, and even fewer receive financial aid, according to Dinh.

“[These students] are an integral part of our campus … and are a marginalized group that are ‘unseen,’ as their status is often times kept private,” Dinh said.

Najera said undocumented students are diligent in educating themselves and others about their cause.

“What I have seen in my research is that they are actively creating learning experiences outside their classrooms,” Najera said. “They are involved on an everyday level and on education projects, whether it be educating themselves about immigration policies or ways they could be participating in the community to educating other people.”

Third-year math major Isabel Czarnecki said undocumented students have the same right to education as their native-born peers.

“I think it’s a great cause because even if you aren’t documented, everyone deserves a right to an education,” Czarnecki said. “I don’t think their citizenship should declare the education they can or cannot get.”

Dinh said the MCC hopes students who attend the talk will leave with a different perspective on undocumented students.

“We hope that by exposing students to the adversities faced by undocumented students that they can slowly begin to shift and shape their world view and language,” Dinh said.

According to Dinh, the MCC created the Race Matters series to educate students on the challenges their classmates may be facing.

“Race Matters is a series of interactive discussions that probe or explore issues related to race on a deeper level and examines its continued impact on marginalized communities within larger societal structures,” Dinh said. “The MCC hopes to broaden awareness and contribute to an ongoing dialogue and reflection on important issues.”

A version of this story appeared on page 5 of the Thursday, April 30, 2015 print edition of the Daily Nexus.