Research Q&A with Nicholas Fuselier: Understanding those who work in Undocumented Student Resource Centers

Nicholas Fuselier, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Leadership, Research, and Foundations

1. How would you describe the main idea or main takeaway from your most recent research or creative work to someone outside your field?

Well, I think we have to first start by describing the unique barriers that today’s undocumented immigrants face in their pursuits of postsecondary education (e.g., financial aid restrictions, precarity of DACA, unwelcoming campus climates, etc.). Because of these barriers, college campuses are being called to enhance their capacity to serve, support, and advocate for undocumented college students. One way that campuses are demonstrating this is through establishing Undocumented Student Resource Centers (USRCs). This paper specifically describes the experiences of USRC professionals so that we can better understand their responsibilities, experiences, and motivating factors to engage in this important yet often challenging work.

2. What is the key paper or author/performer who has most inspired your recent research/creative work?

There are two folks that come to mind. First, I leverage the concept of undocu-competence – the capacity to serve, support, and advocate for undocumented students – which was a term introduced by Jéssica Valenzuela and colleagues in a conceptual article published back in 2015. Second, USRCs are still an emergent phenomenon and Jesus Cisneros is really leading the way in our field’s research around these spaces. So shoutout to those two scholars (and many others) who have been and continue to do really important work in this area.

3. How do you see this research/creative piece contributing to new insights in the field/sparking conversation?

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to present on this research and other related research, all of which calls on colleges to meaningfully serve, support, and advocate for undocumented students, to audiences across the U.S. through conferences, guest lectures, and invited presentations.

4. Can you describe the contributions of co-authors or collaborators who were essential to the success of this project?    

Although I worked on and published this research independently, this particular study would be nothing without the eight participants who volunteered their time and energy, bravely opened up about their experiences, and modeled excellence in their work to support undocumented students as USRC professionals. I remain incredibly grateful to them.

5. What impact do you hope this work makes?

My hope for folks who read this article is twofold. First, I hope this research highlights the critical work that USRC professionals are doing on college campuses in order to effectively support undocumented students. These professionals and others who work in identity-based centers are too often overlooked and under-appreciated on college campuses. Yet, as the findings demonstrate, their contributions to our campuses are immense and should be noticed. Second, I hope this research reminds all student affairs and higher education professionals that in the midst of undocumented students facing numerous barriers within higher education, particularly in a complicated sociopolitical environment with respect to immigration, it is our responsibility to support these students and empower their success.

6. What is on deck for you as you get started on your next project?

I’m working on two manuscripts that also center the important work of USRCs. One manuscript discusses the concept of “safe spaces” on college campuses and, importantly, complicates this concept as the idea of safety for undocumented immigrants in the United States is precarious. The other manuscript critically interrogates the institutionalization process of USRCs and the ways in which these spaces, and other DEI-related change initiatives on campus, are ill-positioned to achieve full institutionalization.

7. Where and when do you feel you are the most productive/creative/inspired?

Honestly, I am still working to find sustainable strategies to stay motivated, get inspired, and be productive. However, a couple of things that I have found work for me include: working at coffee shops (I like the noise and the coming-and-going of it all), working before the sun sets (evenings and night are not productive times for me), and creating spaces to work with like-minded colleagues (writing retreats, when possible, have been a real joy).

You can read Nicholas’s work here.