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Santa Clara University Participating in a Ford Foundation-Funded Study of Undocumented Immigrant Students

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010

SANTA CLARA, Calif., August 11, 2010—Santa Clara University is collaborating with two other Jesuit universities to study the ways in which Jesuit schools support undocumented immigrant students. The study was made possible by a two-year, $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University. Loyola University in Chicago will also join the collaboration.

The research team, led by Fairfield University, will consist of law and social science faculty from all three institutions. The study seeks to survey and understand the social context and current practices and attitudes in American Jesuit schools of higher education regarding undocumented students.

“There is very little hard data about the situation of undocumented students in American universities,” said Richard Ryscavage, S.J., professor of sociology and director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield. “This grant will allow us to make a major contribution to the national understanding of the problem,” adds Fr. Ryscavage, who will serve as director of the project.     

The project is designed to stimulate a sustained dialogue with the 28 Jesuit schools of higher education in the United States by asking two questions:  What are the current practices among our schools? And what challenges do we face in trying to serve these students? A final policy paper, highlighting the results of the study, will include a moral argument, anchored in Catholic social teaching, for better meeting the needs of undocumented students.

“It’s our hope that this study will shine a light on the realities and challenges faced by undocumented students,” said SCU Sociology Department Chair Laura Nichols, the project’s coordinator at SCU.

The study will consider, among other things: structures that support or challenge the higher education of undocumented students, best practices and strategies for ensuring their eventual success, a potential collaborative model for helping students as they move through their university years, and issues facing students after graduation.

“This research project is in keeping with a longstanding concern at Santa Clara University for the fate and future of undocumented students,” said SCU law professor Cynthia Mertens, faculty legal coordinator for the project.

While the initial project is geared to Jesuit colleges and universities, officials say the long-range plan is to broaden the scope of data collection beyond the Jesuit network and conduct research on the topic across the United States higher-education system.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact:
Deborah Lohse | SCU Assistant Media Relations Director | 408-554-5121 |


Tags: immigration, Jesuit, law

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