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Publication Title

Journal of Diversity in Higher Education

Publisher Name

American Psychological Association


This article presents findings from a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) study on the experiences of six undocumented college students at a community college in the Midwest United States. We focused on two main research questions: What are some of the key developmental experiences of undocumented youth? What is the impact of these experiences on the students’ identity and sense of belonging in educational spaces, especially as they transition to college? The findings illustrate the experiences of the six participant coresearchers (PCRs) as they navigated the messy, fragile, and shifting nature of belonging. A common thread in their narratives was the recurrence across their young lives of moments of dislocation (or “being-out-of-place”) associated with their undocumented status. These moments of dislocation barred these undocumented students from fully inhabiting both educational and noneducational spaces; in addition, they affected their ability to develop a sense of belonging as they transitioned to the college environment. Dislocation entails a degree of vulnerability and liminality that is not necessarily encompassed in current models of student development theory, nor considered in institutional support structures created with majority-population students in mind. We argue that institutional agents require sensitivity to the multiple types of dislocation that undocumented youth may experience within and beyond educational settings.


Author Posting © National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, 2020. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, April 2020.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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