Logo for: President's Alliance Higher Education & Immigration

The Higher Ed Immigration Portal is a living resource, updated by a team of immigration and higher education policy and research experts to reflect the most up-to-date information on national and state-level policies and student data, research, and effective practices.

Our Team

Miriam Feldbulm is the co-founder and executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Miriam has over 25 years of experience in higher education administration, student support, and in teaching and research of immigration policy, politics and higher education. She previously served as vice president for student affairs/dean of students and professor of politics at Pomona College, as special assistant to the president at Caltech and senior director for academic support and planning, and is a non-resident fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

Dr. Felecia Russell is the Director of the Higher Ed Immigration Portal at the Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration. She identifies as a Black DACA recipient, scholar, and practitioner. Her research agenda explores the experiences of non-Latinx undocumented students, more specifically Black undocumented students, and the intersections of race and immigration status. Her forthcoming book, Amplifying Black Undocumented Student Voices in Higher Education which centers her own educational journey and a qualitative study exploring the experiences of 15 Black undocumented students, is set to be released by Routledge on April 15, 2024. Most recently, she published two groundbreaking articles, “What Does it Mean to be UndocuBlack? Exploring the Double Invisibility of Black Undocumented Immigrant Students in U.S. Colleges and Universities” and “The (Un) Embraced: The Experiences of Black Undocumented Students on College Campuses.” Felecia earned her undergraduate degree from Cal Lutheran, her master’s in Public Policy from Pepperdine University, and her doctorate from Temple University.

Monica Andrade is the Manager of State Policy for the Presidents’ Alliance, where she coordinates its state policy agenda related to undocumented students and other immigrant populations in higher education. Prior to joining the Presidents’ Alliance, Monica was the Immigrant Rights Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Michigan where she litigated high-impact civil rights cases focused on immigrants’ rights in state and federal courts and advocated for policies to protect such rights. Monica earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University where she majored in Social Work and a law degree from Michigan State University College of Law. Monica’s passion for immigration advocacy stems from her own journey navigating higher education as an undocumented student.

Luz Bertadillo Rodriguez serves as the Director of Campus Engagement. She has over 8 years of experience working in the k-12 educational system, college access non-profit sector, and higher education immigrant student affairs. She started her career working with students in Undocumented Student Programs in California and New York. More recently, her professional and personal work has revolved around merging mental wellness and immigration through the founding of the UndocuChats Collective. Luz holds an AA and BA in Psychology from Mt. San Antonio College and UC Berkeley and a MSW from Columbia University.

Rajika Bhandari is a Senior Advisor for the Higher Ed Immigration Portal. Dr. Bhandari is an international higher education expert and a scholar-practitioner with over 25 years of experience in student mobility research and data-driven insights; monitoring, evaluation, and impact studies of international education programs; and shaping thought leadership strategy in the nonprofit, private and higher education sectors. Dr. Bhandari served as the President & CEO of the IC3 Institute and previously held senior roles at the Institute of International Education (IIE) for over a decade where she led IIE’s research, evaluation and thought leadership portfolio. A frequent speaker on international student issues and a widely published author, her forthcoming book is America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility.

Christian Espinoza (he, him, they) is the Experiential Learning Graduate Fellow at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Currently, he is a a Ph.D. student in Urban Educational Leadership at Claremont Graduate University. Christian holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology, Specialization in Computing from UCLA, and a Master’s in Higher Education-Student Affairs from the University of Redlands. Christian is dedicated to enhancing support for undocumented students in higher education. He is involved in several projects, including coordinating the high school counselor strategy group, supporting communications with the new portal newsletter, developing tools and resources for private institutions, and curating student narratives. Christian is also the Founder of NavigateED Solutions LLC, based in California, whose mission is to empower immigrant learners pursuing higher education.

Dulce Guerrero serves as a Project Associate on State Policy with the Presidents’ Alliance. She has over 9 years of experience working in the immigration field as a community organizer, campaign strategist, and policy analyst. Dulce was born in Mexico and grew up as an undocumented student in Georgia. Her passion for helping the immigrant community originates from her personal difficulties in accessing higher education as an undocumented student. Dulce is a TheDream.US alumna and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Delaware State University.

Cezanne Hayden-Dilbert is the Manager of Operations and People with the Presidents’ Alliance. She has an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resources from Miami Dade College. She wants to find new ways to help support the immigrant community, and contributed to the development of the Portal.

Dr. Corinne Kentor is a 2023 ACLS Leading Edge Fellow and the Presidents’ Alliance Policy and Communications Associate. Corinne is a community-driven social scientist with interdisciplinary expertise in migration, family, and higher education. Before joining the Presidents’ Alliance, Corinne served as a Research Fellow at the City University of New York Office of Applied Research, Evaluation & Data Analytics, where she studied students’ transitions from high school to college and from college to the workforce. Corinne earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology & Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and her B.A. in English and Education Studies from Yale University. 

Ivana Lopez-Espinosa is the Project Associate, Campus Engagement at the Presidents’ Alliance. She’s been an advocate for immigrant communities for over ten years and continues to fight for equitable spaces. Before joining the team Ivana was the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager of the University of Michigan’s botanical gardens & arboretum. She was involved in undocumented student efforts and served on the SCOPE Advisory Board as an UndocuEducator. As a graduate student, Ivana worked at the Presidents’ Alliance as a consultant to build out the Portal State Map, and served on the Undocumented Student Strategy Table. Ivana earned her M.A. in Higher Education from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. in Sociology from Gettysburg College, and is a TheDream.US alum.

Isaac Naranjo is the State Legal Policy Extern. He brings a wealth of knowledge and a deep passion for immigration policy. He is currently in his final semester at the University of Iowa College of Law. Isaac’s commitment to immigration reform dates back to his childhood, as he actively volunteered at immigration clinics, worked at CARECEN, and interned for Senator Menendez during the Trump administration. His decision to join us at the Presidents’ Alliance stems from a desire to further explore the intersection between policy and the law. On a more personal note, Isaac is an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. Isaac previously attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he double majored in Political Science and History – #GOBEARS! 

Axelle Nassirou is the Project Associate for the Refugee Students Initiative with the Presidents’ Alliance. She is an attorney with global experience advising public institutions and private organizations, notably in public international law. While she has gained expertise in U.S. immigration law doing pro bono work for several nonprofits in D.C., her interest in immigration stems from her experience as an immigrant and her dedication to social justice. She has previously founded a social venture EdTech, which aims at improving African students’ global mobility and access to Higher Education. She holds an LL.M. from the George Washington University Law School and a MA in Gender and Development from the Australian National University.

Melquin Ramos serves as a data and research consultant at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. In this role, he supports the Presidents’ Alliance on research and data projects and written pieces related to international, immigrant-origin, and refugee students. Melquin works as an independent consultant in the field of international education in the areas of research, writing, and analysis; data management; virtual exchange; study abroad and international programming. He previously served as a visiting fellow at the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean located in Santiago, Chile. He holds a master’s in organizational leadership from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Diego Sánchez is the Director of Policy and Strategy for the Presidents’ Alliance, leading the development and implementation of the legislative and administrative policy agenda related to undocumented students and other immigrant populations. Prior to joining the Presidents’ Alliance, Diego led the Southern Poverty Law Center’s federal immigration portfolio. He is an immigration lawyer with over 10 years of experience in strategic advocacy for immigrant justice, including experience in state and federal immigration policy, immigration advocacy at the local, state, and national levels, and community organizing. Diego’s passions for immigrant justice and access to education stem from his personal journey as an undocumented college student and former DACA recipient.

Laura Wagner is the Director of Refugee Access. Most recently, Laura was the Senior Program Officer for Integration at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) where she worked with a national network of refugee resettlement agencies to develop innovative and client-centered programs for refugee integration. Laura’s expertise includes refugee resettlement, education, and integration, program development, and project and grants management. Laura graduated from Bucknell University and earned her master’s in International Education Development from Teachers’ College, Columbia University.

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Past Contributors (alphabetically by last name)

Ariana Aparicio Aguilar was a Student Grad Fellow for the Presidents’ Alliance. Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Ariana began her educational journey at Santa Rosa Junior College and transferred to Sonoma State University where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with distinction. She holds a Master’s in Education with a focus on Higher Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy at the University of California Riverside. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Latinx Amplifier award for her work advocating for the immigrant community in Boston, MA.

Victoria Ballerini was the Senior Advisor of the Higher Ed Immigration Portal and consultant with expertise on tuition-free and open access higher education, workforce development, and issues that lie at the intersection of immigration and higher education policy. Dr. Ballerini has over 15 years of experience in higher education policy, practice, and research through various roles in government, postsecondary institutions, and policy research organizations. She holds a master’s degree in Social Policy with concentration in Education from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, and a Ph.D. in Higher and Postsecondary Education from New York University.

Nicolaus Espitia was a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Michigan’s joint social work and sociology program when consulted for the Higher Ed Immigration Portal. He is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research applies a community-centered research approach to address and remove structural barriers faced by traditionally marginalized communities to allow them to engage more equitably with social institutions.

Ilana Israel was finishing her Master’s degree in Leadership and Organizational Dynamics from the University of Michigan, Flint when she consulted for the Higher Ed Immigration Portal. Her interests include working with non-profit organizations, furthering her education, and advocating for social justice and equality.

Maria Lopez Zamudio was a consultant and Project Associate for the Presidents’ Alliance. She also serves as a full time Bilingual Educator. Maria earned her M.Ed with a concentration in Language and Culture and her B.A in Chicana/o-Latina/o studies with a Minor in Sociology from Loyola Marymount University. She has a Business Information Worker (BIW) Certificate, Associate of Science in Business Information, and an Associate of Arts degree. She has 10 years of experience working as an advocate to various under-represented communities including: adults and youth with physical and/or developmental disabilities, immigrants, first-generation students, transfer students, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Natalie McGuire was a consultant for the Higher Ed Immigration Portal. Natalie was a junior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan with a double major in Spanish and Philosophy and minors in Law, Justice, and Social Change and Latina/o Studies.

Ronnie Rios was the Immigration Policy Communications Fellow for the Presidents’ Alliance. Ronnie was a doctoral student in the Center for the Study of Higher and Post-Secondary Education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Background: The uLEAD Network 

The uLEAD Network was a major part of a long term initiative undertaken by the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, based at the University of Michigan. This effort began in 2007 to bring attention to the gaps in policy and practice that denied access to education for immigrant students. uLEAD was the public vehicle through which the National Forum’s research was shared and over time became a site where institutional leaders, policy makers and advocates exchanged information and kept abreast of changes across the higher education system. Launched in 2013, uLEAD’s development was made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and under a partnership with the National Center for Institutional Diversity. uLEAD  led to the development of state and institutional collaborative networks and is the basis for several scholarly reports on issues related to undocumented student access. Many aspects of this work and the information resources captured on the uLEAD site will continue as the Higher Ed Immigration Portal under the aegis of The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. 

This research has been made possible by the work of undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students at the National Forum. The work would not have been possible without the generous funders and dedicated researchers the past 7 years.

Thank You

A Special Thank You to Individuals Who Contributed to the Development of the
Higher Ed Immigration Portal:
John Burkhardt
Jill Casner-Lotto
Emily Fine
Debbie Fine Edelberg
Jose Magaña-Salgado
Christian Penichet-Paul
Cris Ramon
Jill Welch