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OIR leads regional training to support undocumented students

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February 12, 2024
Meghan O'Toole

Lake Forest College’s Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) staff led a training session with a focus on empowering campuses across the Midwest to support undocumented students.

Associate Director of Intercultural Relations Ninna Villavicencio Miranda, PhD, and Director of Intercultural Relations Nevin J. Heard, PhD, continued their ongoing work to create sustainable ways to support students from historically and intentionally marginalized identities on January 26, 2024, by leading a NASPA-IV East Region training session on supporting undocumented students.

NASPA is a professional organization centering on student affairs in higher education. They provide professional development opportunities, research, advocacy for inclusive and equitable practices and communities, and networking opportunities. This training is part of OIR's broader diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives.

ninna portrait“By sharing insights from our own proactive approach to supporting undocumented students with professionals from other institutions, we are not only contributing to the collective strategizing and capacity-building of our NASPA-IV East colleagues but also establishing Lake Forest College as a leader in fostering DEIB efforts to support undocumented students,” Villavicencio Miranda said. “This is especially critical in a national political climate where there are increasing restrictions on how we can communicate about DEIB.”

The NASPA-IV East region-wide training was attended by college professionals from the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, creating an opportunity for OIR to share valuable insights and strategies regarding Lake Forest College’s proactive support of support for undocumented students.

According to Villavicencio Miranda, much of the existing literature centered on supporting undocumented students in higher education is tailored to large institutions, especially public ones. OIR's eventual goal is to develop and publish a series of best practices for small libera arts and private colleges. This NASPA-IV East presentation was a first step in getting feedback from peer institutions.

“Supporting undocumented students is an essential part of fostering an inclusive campus environment,” Villavicencio Miranda explained of the significance of this work. “Given recent legislation that makes it harder for undocumented people to apply for DACA and the fact that Illinois is one of five states in the US with the most undocumented students in higher education, we have to be prepared as a campus to provide an equitable experience. We know our undocumented students are here, and our responsibility as an institution is to make sure they enter a college environment where they can thrive—something we strive to provide all our students.”

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