Sociologist Laura Nichols ’90 on how past and present converge for undocumented college students
Laura Nichols ’90 didn’t expect her book Undocumented and in College: Students and Institutions in a Climate of National Hostility to be quite this relevant again. In fact, she hoped it wouldn’t be.
From 2010–12, Nichols, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology, was part of a Ford Foundation study exploring complexities facing undocumented college students. Nichols and professors from two other Jesuit institutions interviewed and researched undocumented students at Jesuit institutions nationwide. But with the creation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June 2012, many of the problems facing Dreamers were solved or lessened.
Fast-forward to 2017. Nichols’ book was published and President Donald Trump announced plans to repeal DACA. Suddenly, the problems in the book aren’t a thing of the past.
“It’s a cautionary tale,” Nichols says. Undocumented and in College adds context to the story of students’ lives. There is work to be done, but Nichols thinks Jesuit schools could lead the way— and the Ford Foundation agreed. “They realized if there’s any group of institutions who could say something about undocumented students, the Jesuit network could.”