From UCSC: “Cultivating potential: How UC Santa Cruz is helping undocumented students thrive”

UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz

April 27, 2017
Peggy Townsend

Thanks to more than a half-dozen programs, undocumented students on campus have been able to get support, assistance, and encouragement—and the campus benefits from nurturing their passion and talent.

In her third year at UC Santa Cruz, Amy is doing research on the universe’s most violent events. She is about to publish a paper on the topic, is headed to Harvard for a summer research program, has a 3.7 GPA, and plans to go to graduate school.

But a decision her parents made to bring Amy to the U.S. at the age of 4 leaves her with worries and obstacles many other students don’t face.

Amy (not her real name) is undocumented, which means she is ineligible for some scholarships, may be hampered in her graduate studies because she isn’t allowed to get federal research funds, and, in the current political climate, lives with an undercurrent of anxiety that her family could be deported.

But thanks to more than a half-dozen programs at UC Santa Cruz, Amy and approximately 400 other undocumented students on campus have been able not only to survive, but to thrive.

The programs—funded by the University of California and some private donations—provide counseling, internships, legal help, support groups, an extended orientation program, and even a lending library of 3,000 textbooks for undocumented students to borrow. The campus’s Educational Opportunity Programs office (EOP) carries out these programs, which were developed by and, now, implemented by, students and counselors.

“Why is it critical to have these services?” says Pablo Reguerín (Oakes ’94, Latin American and Latino studies), who is assistant vice provost for student success at UC Santa Cruz. “Because undocumented students represent an enormous asset in terms of their intellectual, academic, and human capital for the state. Aside from these benefits, this is a matter of our own humanity and social justice.”
Changing policies

The history of undocumented students at UC campuses is a checkered one. Before 1991, undocumented students were allowed to pay in-state tuition at UC institutions provided they could prove they had lived in the state for a year and a day and planned to make California their home. Then, in 1990, an employee at the UCLA Office of the Registrar sued, saying he was forced to quit because he could not follow those rules. The employee won an injunction and soon undocumented students were being charged out-of-state tuition rates, which basically barred them from a UC education.

A 2001 state law, AB 540, changed the rule so that undocumented students could again pay in-state fees. More state laws, passed in 2011, allowed these students to receive some state financial aid. Finally, in 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order dubbed DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which prevented young people who were brought to this country as children from being deported while they were in school.

College seemed within reach for more undocumented students until the election of Donald Trump, who had called for a hard line on immigration policy. That prompted UC President Janet Napolitano, in November 2016, to not only reiterate the UC system’s support of undocumented students and but also allocate money for undocumented student programs. UC Santa Cruz will receive $275,000 in each of the next three years.
Harvesting talent

Santa Cruz programs funded by this money, along with private donations, include free legal services for students and their families, peer counseling, support groups, a textbook lending library that hands out about 650 textbooks each quarter, and an intense five-day orientation program for undocumented students. Besides learning how to navigate the wooded campus and schedule classes, the orientation gives undocumented students information on renewing their DACA status, negotiating with landlords who may be averse to renting to undocumented students, budgeting, getting emotional support, and finding financial aid, among other subjects.

Most importantly, the UC Santa Cruz Career Center also offers an internship program available to undocumented students through the Professional Career Development Program (PCDP). These internships are especially important for undocumented students, who may come from low-income families and find themselves facing a funding gap of $7,000 to $9,000 a year, according to Reguerín.

For five undocumented members of UC Santa Cruz’s STEM Diversity Program this year, the PCDP program means an opportunity to not only do hands-on research in fields like neurodegenerative diseases and gene expression but also receive a stipend for their work, according to Yulianna Ortega (Merrill ’05, biology and Latin American and Latino studies), director of the STEM Diversity Program. Two other undocumented STEM students are working on administrative projects.

In addition, a program called Lamat, funded by philanthropist Julie Packard (Crown ’74, biology; M.A. ’78) allows community college students, including those who are undocumented, to be part of a summer research session in astrophysics.

“I see these efforts as an opportunity, especially in the sciences, to find and harvest the remarkable talent we have in these communities,” says UC Santa Cruz Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz.
Have potential, need opportunity.

While UC Santa Cruz sometimes lost capable students from wealthier schools to institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, Ramirez-Ruiz says, he and others have been able to attract a pool of equally talented students, many undocumented, who are ready to bring their differing viewpoints in order to find solutions to complex astrophysical problems that are often more innovative and creative.

The students attacked problems with vigor and were quick to think on their feet, Ramirez-Ruiz says, but their status in society often made them feel unwelcome.

“They knew, in order to stand out, they had to do better than everyone else because of the excessive resistance they are constantly confronting,” Ramirez-Ruiz says.

Undocumented students from UC Santa Cruz have not only gone on to graduate school, but also a number are working in fields like education, biotechnology, public health, and in the nonprofit sector.

Says Ortega: “These students have so much potential. They just need the opportunity.”

“The fact is, the talent is already here, already contributing positively to society, and some of these students are just brilliant,” Ramirez-Ruiz says. “There is a clear message from society to them that they are second class and that they don’t belong here. But despite this unyielding defiance, the level of determination shown by these students is basically unmatched. We need to give them an opportunity because in terms of market value, they are an investment that will give you the highest return.”

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal agrees.

“UC Santa Cruz is committed to supporting these hard-working, talented students who continue to make valuable contributions to the campus and to their fields of study,” Blumenthal says.

See the full article here .

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Stem Education Coalition

UCO Lick Shane Telescope
UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

UC Santa Cruz campus
The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
March 23, 2015
By Hilary Lebow
The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

“Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

“The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

“We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

“This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

“Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


Stem Education Coalition

UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.