Katie Glenn and Mapi Baez Lara co-presented the research group’s first paper, Crimmigration Framing in Immigration Federalism, at the Politics of Race, Immigration, and Ethnicity Consortium (PRIEC) held at the University of North Texas in November 2021.
“I’m proud to say that Katie and Mapi are the first two graduate students in our newly launched online program to present work at a conference like this, and we were able to support their travel with funds in our program,” said Dr. Colbern. “Our group is working this winter to finish the work Katie and Mapi presented at PRIEC, which we’ll be submitting for review at the International Migration Review in January 2022.”
Dr. Colbern added, “I’ve been incredibly impressed by these two young scholars, especially their work ethic. Online collaboration with nine students has been exciting but also a transition and learning experience for me. I owe a lot to Katie and Mapi for helping coordinate our meetings and collaborative environment. Other students in the group are co-authors behind Katie and Mapi, and they've also been essential to the group’s success.”
What inspired you to get involved in the research group in addition to your regular studies?
Katie: My interest in academia and research has grown immensely throughout my time in the social justice and human rights master’s program. I wanted to explore this research opportunity because I knew that having mentorship from Dr. Colbern would be vital to my success. His scholarship and activism in immigrant rights aligned perfectly with my academic and professional goals of connecting public policy with social justice movements.
Mapi: My lived experiences and my desire to advocate for, create social consciousness for and defend human rights inspired me to get involved. I’m committed to advancing immigrant rights, with a particular interest in undocumented populations. I wanted the opportunity to focus on my interests and utilize my knowledge in intersectional justice fields towards meaningful and tangible research with like-minded individuals. The research group offers that under the guidance of Dr. Colbern, who is a highly accomplished scholar, passionate about leading others and whose work aligns perfectly with the area of research we are conducting together.
What have been your responsibilities as a member of the research group?
Katie: Each of the group’s members play a unique and important role. Some students are more interested in data collection, some are interested in analysis and others in presenting.
I quickly took on a leadership role, along with Mapi, to grow my skills in all aspects of the research process. I began by creating a Slack channel for the research, coordinating roles that each of us would play and scheduling weekly meetings to build the project into something we could be proud of and possibly publish. I wanted to gain as much experience as I could by taking the lead in each step, from data collection, coding, various types of analysis and writing.
Mapi and I drafted and submitted abstracts for the group’s work to the PRIEC. We also developed abstracts that were all accepted for other political science conferences.
Dr. Colbern emphasized that we students should lead in the process of submitting to conferences, and he integrated providing feedback on abstracts and helped develop our presentations for the conference during our group meetings.
Mapi: Given my affinity for the field and scholarship that we’re building upon, I’ve injected myself into all aspects of the research process.
Most of my responsibilities mirror that of the group, such as article collection, coding, developing the research questions, content analysis, review of scholarship and development of our abstracts and journal articles. Where I’ve taken on a more active leading role, along with Katie, is in overseeing details and management of the project and supporting the group’s communication, engagement and organization. Coordinating schedules for meetings and tracking progress on various aspects of our research were two ways in which I helped drive the progression of our research.
What’s your experience working in the group been like?
Mapi: The experience has been revolutionary. It’s shaped how I think about research, the work I want to do and how I can accomplish that. I’m learning so much about the research process and what it takes to produce collaborative work.
There are challenges with working in a completely remote online environment. It requires a lot of time, commitment, flexibility and adaptability. Technology is playing a key role, and we’ve not been shy about integrating new approaches and creative ways to interact and complete work. Working together so closely, day in and day out, has allowed relationships to evolve naturally, and we can leverage each other for support and guidance. I love that our research process is a group effort, and I can learn from each member’s perspectives, experiences and knowledge, allowing for creating a genuinely unique and diverse collaborative project.
Katie: Working solely in an online environment in a group hasn’t been easy at times, yet it was apparent early on how invested everyone was, especially Dr. Colbern. A willingness to collaborate and be innovative in our communication through technology has allowed our group to seamlessly and cohesively carry out research.
When presenting our work recently at a national conference, attendees were shocked to learn that Mapi and I had only met in person the day before. It was a great opportunity to showcase just how well online collaborations can work if done effectively. Online learning can often feel disconnected, but this group has proven that with a little bit of innovation and a lot of dedication, the connections that are built can be just as, if not more, valuable than in-person.
As an adult student with a family and a professional life outside of school, the online learning environment was the best option for my education. And the immigration research group has given me opportunities that I didn’t think possible. I’m now applying to on-campus PhD programs with new aspirations for building an academic career.
What has been most rewarding about the experience?
Mapi: There have been many rewarding aspects to this experience. Most notably, the genuine and interactive mentorship I’m receiving is unlike any opportunity I’ve been a part of, and it’s playing a pivotal role in my growth. Dr. Colbern’s hands-on approach fosters the development of our skills, and it’s strengthening my career path. With my professional goal focused on supporting and advocating for underrepresented populations, this experience gives me the tools and knowledge to be an agent for change within these communities.
Additionally, coming from a family of immigrants and being one myself, this work is very meaningful. I feel privileged to be in a position where I am contributing important work towards the advancement and empowerment of my community. Through our work, I’m actively representing the population on which our research focuses. I am intimately familiar with the challenges and barriers faced by immigrant and undocumented communities. My collaboration allows me to utilize my agency against hostile rhetoric that plagues the media and politics. Through my active participation in this group, I’m positioning myself to take the skills and knowledge onto a larger platform that more directly and practically supports immigrants and undocumented individuals.
Katie: The two most rewarding things about this group has been both the invaluable experience and training from the hands-on research process, but also from the mentorship and relationships built.
Having such a strong foundation of support and guidance from Dr. Colbern has opened new doors and given me tools to propel me forward in my academic and professional career. The relationships and opportunities from being part of this group are paving new and exciting goals for me.
I had always toyed with the idea of pursuing a PhD and being a part of this group has solidified this goal for me. I’m now in the process of applying for PhD programs, mostly in political science. This research experience has given me invaluable resources and helps me stand out in the PhD application pool. It also helped me discover my own interests and how I hope to contribute to the scholarly community.
What advice would you give to prospective students who want to get involved in the research group?
Katie: The one thing I would say for those who are interested in this opportunity is … do it! Because it’s a volunteer group, everyone knows we all have our own personal lives on top of this research. The experience is what you make of it and there’s an understanding that there will be ebbs and flows in the amount of time each person can dedicate to the group. Each member has the chance to contribute what they care to and each is valuable to the overall success of the group.
Mapi: Having good time management skills is essential since the group requires time and commitment in addition to that required for our coursework.
I find that individuals who pursue an online program are often non-traditional students, working and going to school on a full-time basis in addition to being parents, partners and caregivers. Committing to more work in the program, such as this research group, often seems inconceivable. However, the group allows members to decide their level of engagement. It’s an environment in which you get what you put into it. I highly encourage anyone interested in propelling their academic and professional careers and having a unique online graduate experience to embark on this journey.