The Role of a Dream Resource Center at a CSU: How Institutional Agents Advanced Equity for Undocumented Students through Interest Convergence
Undocumented students face several institutional barriers that impede successful graduation rates in higher education. In recent years, institutions of higher education have been confronted with the volatile political climate and heightened visibility surrounding undocumented student issues. The emerging Dream Resource Centers (DRCs) represent an understudied intervention for institutions of higher education to uphold their commitment to undocumented student success and educational equity. Drawing on concepts from Critical Race Theory, interest convergence, the liminal state of immigration policy, campus climate, and student centers, this study explored the role of a DRC in a large, public state university in California. Specifically, the research questions for the study were:
1. What factors led to the creation of the Dream Resource Center?
2. What Dream Resource Center programs, policies, practices, and structures meet the needs of undocumented students?
3. What role does the Dream Resource Center play in enacting institutional commitment to undocumented students?
Answers to questions were acquired using qualitative methods such as interviews, observations, and document analysis. Interviews captured the perspectives of front-line staff members, allies, and upper level administrators who worked on creating and/or supporting the DRC at the institution. Findings reveal how institutional actors shifted the campus climate, how interest convergence was key in the opening of the DRC, and how the DRC furthers the institutions' objectives of recruitment, retention, and community empowerment.
This study highlighted the critical role that institutional allies, institutional leaders, and the DRC play in advancing educational equity for undocumented students. This study can build current practitioners' knowledge on starting new DRCs and provide high-level administrators with empirical evidence on the importance of supporting undocumented students. Recommendations for practitioners include to (a) prioritize undocumented students' interests, (b) build coalitions to strengthen partnerships, and (c) utilize an immigrant justice approach. With the uncertainty and lack of leadership around federal immigration reform, institutions of higher education have an opportunity to shape the country's discourse around supporting undocumented communities.