Logo for: President's Alliance Higher Education & Immigration

Convening Agenda

The convening will take place March 29-30, 2024. It will feature roundtable discussions, keynote speakers, and in-depth issue area workshops. Registration will start at 7:45 am (CT) on Friday, March 29, 2024, and will be promptly followed by our Welcome and State of Play on Campuses. The convening will end with a closing reception session at 6:00 pm (CT) on Saturday, March 30, 2024.

Tracks have been developed to meet the needs and priorities of the participating campuses and will include:

Creating Sustainable Models for Career Development

  • Considerations for non-employment based funding opportunities
  • Finding funds and donors
  • Creating, sustaining and expanding experiential programs 
Preparing Students to Pursue Graduate & Professional Studies

  • Navigating Admissions & Funding for Grad and Prof School
  • Retention and Post-Graduation Support
  • State policies and professional and occupational licensure
Thriving Beyond The Academy: Opportunities For Income Generation

  • Building an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Working with the career center and career advising  
  • Nut & Bolts of Entrepreneurship

Day One – Friday, March 29

Expand the sections with arrow heads to view the session descriptions, speakers bios and headshots.


7:45-9:00 AM

Breakfast & Registration | Houston Marriott Medical Center/Museum District

9:00-9:30 AM

Welcome | Ballroom
Miriam Feldblum, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance

Dr. Miriam Feldblum is the co-founder and executive director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance. A national expert on the intersection of immigration and higher education, Miriam has written extensively and delivered presentations on undocumented, international, and refugee students, immigration policy and higher education, and highly skilled labor in the United States.  She is a non-resident fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and author of Reconstructing Citizenship: The Politics of Nationality Reform and Immigration in Contemporary France. Miriam previously served as vice president for student affairs, dean of students, and professor of politics at Pomona College, as special assistant to the president, faculty research associate, and senior director at the California Institute of Technology, and as an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco. She received a BA in political science from Barnard College, and MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees in political science from Yale University.

Reginald DesRoches, President, Rice University

Reginald DesRoches is Rice University’s eighth president. He also serves as a professor of civil and environmental engineering and professor of mechanical engineering. As president, DesRoches is the chief executive officer of the university and its 8,600 plus students, eight schools, and more than 900 faculty. He previously served as Rice’s Howard Hughes Provost and William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering. DesRoches’ top priorities are to enable Rice to reach a new level of distinction nationally and internationally for impactful research, award-winning scholarship, and insightful creative work. He also wants to build graduate programs that are of the same distinction as Rice’s top-rated undergraduate programs while maintaining Rice’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Gaby Pacheco, President and CEO, TheDream.US

Maria Gabriela (“Gaby”) Pacheco, a leading voice in immigrant rights and education from Miami, Florida, serves as the President and CEO of TheDream.US. An immigrant from a mixed-status family, she has been at the forefront of immigration advocacy for two decades. Notably, in 2010, she co-led the Trail of Dreams walk from Miami to Washington, DC, and played a key role in the creation of the DACA program in 2012. In 2013, she became the first undocumented Latina to testify before Congress, pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. Pacheco’s work has earned her significant recognition, including being named in Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Education” and receiving an Honorary Doctoral Degree from The New School. She has also been featured in Elle magazine and on the cover of TIME Magazine for her advocacy efforts. A respected political analyst, Pacheco frequently contributes to major news outlets and has advocated for immigrant rights at national levels. After achieving her dream of becoming a U.S. citizen in 2023, she continues her advocacy work while living in Miami with her husband and their pets.

Iliana Perez, Executive Director, Immigrants Rising

Iliana G Perez, Ph.D. serves as the Executive Director of Immigrants Rising and has pioneered efforts to empower and support undocumented entrepreneurs through resource development, training, and ecosystem building across the U.S. Dr. Perez immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with her family to the U.S. at the age of eight. She grew up in the California Central Valley and was undocumented for 27 years before adjusting her status. Iliana holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Fresno State, a M.A. in Economics and a Ph.D. in Education Policy from Claremont Graduate University.

9:30-10:30 AM

State of Play on Campuses | Ballroom

This session will provide an overview of the spectrum of career development and post-graduation pathways for undocumented students, regardless of immigration status, at the institutions participating in the SUCCESS convening. We will present key takeaways from the State of Play survey data, identify areas of strength among institutions, and jumpstart cross-campus collaborations.

Hyein Lee, Chief Operating Officer, TheDream.US

Hyein Lee leads daily operations, team management, stakeholder engagement, and program development for TheDream.US – the nation’s largest college and career success program for Dreamers. She is driven by the power of research and evaluation to build evidence-based narratives for immigrant and higher education equity and elevates the story of TheDream.US and the success of the program’s 10,000+ Scholars and Alumni.

10:30-10:45 AM

Networking Break

10:45AM-12:00 PM

Overview and Panels

Track 1: Creating Sustainable Models for Career Development | Ballroom

Overview

This track will focus on how institutions can build and sustain Non-Employment Based Opportunities (NEBOs) on-campus to provide inclusive career development opportunities to undocumented students, regardless of immigration status. Practitioners and administrators both in the early stages of developing programs and those further along in their journey are encouraged to attend.

Laura Bohorquez, Director, Undocumented Student Center, University of California Davis

Laura Bohórquez García is from Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, an im/migrant, current first-generation undocu educator and entrepreneur. Her awareness and approach to community building and advocacy come from her communities and families’ funds of knowledge. She’s the co-founder of the Undocumented Immigrant and Allies Knowledge Community, the inaugural Undocumented Student Program Coordinator at the University of Maryland and inaugural DEEP Coordinator at United We Dream. She’s currently the Director of the Undocumented Student Center at UC Davis and Executive Director of her container Inner Work Collective Freedom, a collective of undocumented folks and advocates ready to engage in joint struggle and joy.

Nicole Wesley, Senior Program Manager – Career Supports TheDream.US

Nicole Wesley works at TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college and career success program for undocumented college students. As the Senior Program Manager of Career Supports, Nicole creates inclusive career programs and resources for undocumented students regardless of work authorization status. She is passionate about assisting undocumented students with their career advising needs, and works with TheDream.US’ 80+ Partner Colleges to create and scale inclusive career resources and programs. Nicole served as the Chair of the National Association of Colleges & Employers’ Serving Undocumented Students subcommittee, and previously served as a Career Services Liaison to TheDream.US Scholars in her past role as the Director of Career Services at Nevada State University (formally Nevada State College).

Panel

Participants will hear directly from undergraduate students and practitioners from across the country on their experiences participating in, building, and expanding inclusive career development opportunities for undocumented students.   

Nicole Wesley, Senior Program Manager – Career Supports TheDream.US (bio in Track 1: Intro)

Mahir Sadad, Design & Social Engagement Assistant, CUNY Undocumented & Immigrant Student Programs

Born in Bangladesh, Mahir is a current Macaulay Honors student at Queens College pursuing a BA in Political Science. As an undocumented student, he has built his academic and professional journey around uplifting and supporting undocumented and immigrant students at CUNY and the NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE). Currently, Mahir works as the Design & Social Engagement Assistant at CUNY Undocumented & Immigrant Student Programs (UISP), where he creates social media content tailored to the unique personal and academic needs of undocumented and immigrant students across all 25 CUNY campuses. Mahir is also a returning third-year Immigrant Ambassador to the NYCDOE, where he supports multilingual and first-generation high school students in exploring their postsecondary options. Outside of work, Mahir enjoys baking and painting.

Mudjana Colin, Student, City College of New York

I am a Macaulay Honors student and a Colin Powell fellow for Public Service and Leadership at City College of New York. I am currently a New York State Dream Act (NYSDA) Policy Intern at CUNY Undocumented & Immigrant Student Programs, where I apply my research, data analysis, and communication skills to support undocumented and immigrant students. I am passionate about empowering youth and promoting social justice and diversity. My advocacy and passion stem directly from my personal experiences, and I owe much of my empowerment to the New York State Youth Leadership Council.

Raven Jones, Director, Center for Student Empowerment, University of Houston

As Director of the Center for Student Empowerment, Dr. Raven Jones enhances the quality of education for UH students within the CSE program. As an avid researcher, program developer, and public policy analyst, Dr. Jones’s research concentrates on the cultural resources within urban communities that can be utilized to improve the resiliency and psychological development of underrepresented students.

Yessenia Hernandez, Assistant Director, CCL/Undocumented Student Support Coordinator, Dominican University

Yessenia (Yessy) Hernandez, is a proud undocumented professional and scholar. She received a master’s in social work with a global focus on immigrant and refugee populations and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Criminology from Dominican University. After serving in multiple roles that provide support and mentorship to students in their academic journey, Yessy decided to pursue working with students. In her current role, Yessy works with students and families through projects such as the Family Academy, cultural and identity programming, one on one mentorship and being a Dream.US scholar Advisor. As a young professional, Yessy is most excited to navigate the field of higher education through a social work lens. As a lifelong learner, Yessy hopes to become a LCSW, (License Clinical Social Worker) to continue proving positive interactions and space of support to other first-generation students and young professionals.

Sebastian Sanchez, Deputy Secretary for Immigrant and Agriculture Workforce, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency

Sebastian Sanchez is the Deputy Secretary for Immigrant and Agriculture Workforce at the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). In this position he has helped design and manage LWDA’s pandemic workplace outreach efforts, and led an effort to coordinate outreach and enforcement efforts across LWDA with regards to farmworkers. He has also developed an agency-wide strategy on workforce development for farmworkers, leading to an investment of $20 million to expand and create programs to train farmworkers. Prior to being appointed to this position by Governor Newsom in July 2020, he worked at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles as an attorney representing low wage and immigrant workers who had not been paid for their work or had experienced retaliation or discrimination in the workplace. In this practice he worked closely with various worker centers to support campaigns and launch clinics to better protect immigrant workers. Prior to Bet Tzedek, Sebastian worked for the California Rural Legal Assistance in Oxnard, representing farmworkers in claims related to their workplace rights, and at Make the Road NY, a worker center focused on supporting immigrant New Yorkers. Sebastian is a graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law, where he was a Center for Social Justice Scholar, and Columbia University. Born in Colombia, he came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant when he was five years old.

Track 2: Preparing Students to Pursue Graduate & Professional Studies| Conference Room 1-2

Overview

This track will focus on how institutions can implement practices that address the gaps in access and retention of undocumented students pursuing graduate and professional school. Practitioners and administrators interested in learning how to remove or reduce institutional barriers and individuals interested in pursuing graduate school are highly encouraged to attend. 

Richard Nunn, Senior Program Lead, University of Michigan

For over 20 years, my experiences in the field of education includes expertise in access, inclusion, culturally-relevant support, and community empowerment. Previous efforts with the University of Detroit Mercy, Eastern Michigan University, and University of Michigan provided a wealth of experience supporting undergraduate and graduate students, particularly from communities of color, across student life, academic affairs, outreach, and enrollment management. Grassroot efforts in Southeast Michigan supporting K-12 youth with success and educational outreach strengthened my understanding across the educational pipeline. My continued efforts are aimed at creating educational access and developing institutional support models for all students through a culturally-relevant critical lens informed by scholarship, practice, and community input. Currently, I coordinate graduate outreach efforts for the University of Michigan including summer research programs and lead the graduate school’s UndocuGrad Initiative.

Casandra Sandoval, PhD Candidate Chemical Biology, University of Michigan

Casandra is a 3rd year PhD candidate in the Program in Chemical Biology at the University of Michigan. Outside of my scientific research projects, I also research graduate school accessibility for undocumented/DACAmented individuals across the nation.

Panel

Participants will hear directly from graduate students and a practitioner who will talk about the challenges, opportunities, and success of navigating school while undocumented.

Juan Soltero, MA Civil Engineering Student, Colorado State University

Being undocumented has always been a part of my identity but it started from a place of shame when I was taught that it was something to hide. The reality of my status became clearer as I got older, but this also came with a burgeoning sense of joy in belonging to a community of proud, hard-working individuals. This sense of community only grew stronger after volunteering with the National Hispanic Institute which aims to create experiences that engage high school and college-age youth in community leadership roles that advance our quality of life. It was only through the encouragement and genuine belief of the teachers, mentors, and friends along the way that I had the courage to apply for graduate school and pursue my master’s degree in civil engineering. Finding it particularly difficult to find financial aid, I was also fortunate to have the financial support of my family to supplement my own contributions from working part-time. One of my proudest achievements, I hope that my experience can resonate with other DACA recipients and undocumented students looking to continue their education while also edifying myself through the stories of those within this community.

Joyce Zamorano Sanchez, Student, California State University, Sacramento

Joyce is a proud UC Davis alumna, Class of 2020, obtaining a BA in Communication, with minors in Spanish and Professional Writing. From Queretaro, Mexico, she believes that education can transform someone’s life and wants to advocate for undocu scholars to have every opportunity possible to pursue their goals. In 2023, she returned to UC Davis to work at the Undocumented Student Resource Center, the engage with scholars as a Resource Coordinator. Embarking on her first year, Joyce is attending Sacramento State for her MA in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, determined to grow more knowledgeable in leading and being a voice for students.

Steve Li, MA Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Student, Yale University

Steve Li is a leading advocate for immigration reform and social justice, deeply committed to human rights. His notable work includes co-authoring “Dreams Deported: Immigrant Youth and Families Resist Deportation,” as an advocate for the #Health4All campaign and served on the Board of Directors at Asian Health Services, focusing on healthcare access and outcomes for marginalized communities. With a B.A. in Asian American Studies & Public Health from UC Davis, Li is currently pursuing graduate studies in Psychiatric Mental Health at Yale School of Nursing. His research interests include addiction psychiatry, psychiatric care integration, and global health, demonstrating his dedication to advancing mental health services.

Cindy Barahona, PhD Student, Texas A&M University

Cindy Barahona, a fifth-year Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University, earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology in 2018. Originally from Honduras, she migrated to the US at the age of 12. Currently, Cindy is the founder of ImmRoadmap LLC, a socially responsible company dedicated to fostering inclusivity, empathy, and understanding among organizations and individuals working with immigrant youth. Her passion for this work stems from her personal journey and extensive research on immigration from a sociological perspective. Among her recent publications are two co-authored pieces with Dr. Cinthya Salazar on establishing research collectives by and for undocumented youth, and the transition of undocumented students out of college.

12:00-1:30 PM

Lunch | Ballroom

Book Reading by Felecia RussellAmplifying Black Undocumented Student Voices in Higher Education (2024)

Felecia Russell, Director, Higher Ed Immigration Portal, Presidents’ Alliance

Felecia S. Russell is the Director of the Higher Ed Immigration Portal at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. She previously served as the Director of Undergraduate Admission at California Lutheran University, and as adjunct professor in the college of education. 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, centers her educational journey and a qualitative study exploring the experiences of 15 Black undocumented students. It will be published by Routledge on April 15, 2024. Dr. Russell received a BA in political science from Cal Lutheran, and MPP from Pepperdine University, and Ed.D in higher education from Temple University. 

12:45-1:30 PM

Shuttle to Rice University | Ballroom

Participants may also walk.

1:45-4:15 PM
break included

Breakout Groups

Track 1: Breakout Groups
Building a Program | Anderson-Clarke Center Auditorium

This breakout session is targeted for those in the early stages of developing Non-Employment Based Opportunities (NEBOs) on-campus, and will provide resources and tools on how to build a program from the ground up, such as determining what is a NEBO, finding initial funding, and developing a curriculum. 

Denise Vivar, Specialist at Immigrant Student Success Center, John Jay College

Denise Vivar is dedicated to serving New York State’s immigrant community, advocating for their rights, and fostering supportive community networks. With expertise in policy-oriented solutions, she has shaped impactful change within institutions, drawing from her experiences at the NYS Senate, NYSYLC, CUNY Mexican Studies Institute, and the Tech Talent Pipeline at Lehman College. As the manager of the Immigrant Student Success Center at John Jay College, Denise has led numerous career pipeline programs for undocumented and immigrant students while prioritizing student affairs initiatives to foster campus community. Her vision for the intersection of immigration and higher education centers on leadership development, community building and self-advocacy as forms of resistance. Denise is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Policy Analysis and Evaluation at Baruch College Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, holding a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from Lehman College, CUNY. 

Julie Mitchell, Legal Director, CARECEN (Central American Resource Center of Los Angeles)

Ms. Mitchell has extensive experience in the provision and management of non-profit immigration legal services. She has worked at the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles since 2005. Here she piloted the organization’s comprehensive citizenship services model, advance parole trip programming, and college legal services project. Ms. Mitchell holds a J.D. from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and an M.A. in Latin American Studies from California State University, Los Angeles. Her primary research interests involve the social ramifications of immigration laws in immigrant communities in the United States.

Dario Fernandez, Director, DREAM Program, Mt. San Antonio College

Darío Fernandez is a first-generation, formerly undocumented, college graduate who has extensive experience working with the immigrant and undocumented communities. Dario earned his Bachelor degrees in Political Science and Ethnic Studies and his Master’s degree in Education from California State University, Long Beach. Darío currently serves as the Director of the DREAM Program at Mt. San Antonio College where he oversees programs, services, and initiatives aimed at serving undocumented students. Previously, Dario has worked to implement Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) federal grants, with non-profit immigrants’ rights organizations, and he also served as the Director of the DREAM Center at California State University, Northridge.

Sustaining and Expanding a Program | Anderson-Clarke Center Room 107

This breakout session is geared towards campuses already providing Non-Employment Based Opportunities (NEBOs) and are more advanced in their journey. The session will discuss strategies to scale programs and focus on pathways to sustainability through identifying key on- and off-campus relationships and securing longer-term funding.

Rosa Salamanca, Dream Center Director, University of Utah

Rosa Salamanca was born and raised in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States at the age of 16. She has extensive leadership experience serving Undocumented Students and their families. She currently serves as the Dream Center Director at the University of Utah and has previously held leadership roles at various institutions in the state of California. Her leadership led to the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Region VI Innovative Program Award in October 2020. She has served on over 25 committees in a leadership capacity, and has served as the campus expert on immigration policies and laws, including but not limited to in-state tuition laws, DACA and Advance Parole. Rosa received a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Central American Studies from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). She is a current Master in Public Administration student at Sonoma State University (SSU). She also co-founded Colorful Cultura to connect the uniqueness of individuals, groups and spaces to center and cultivate a more inclusive and colorful environment for people to thrive in. As part of her mindful practice, she loves to spend time with her dog, on a yoga mat, and in nature. Rosa is an experienced undocu-educator, research professional, grant writer, and nationally-recognized public speaker.

Matias Bernal, Executive Director, Education and Leadership Foundation

Matias Bernal (He/Him/EL) is the Executive Director at Education and Leadership Foundation. An undocumented, queer immigrant, he’s dedicated his career to community-based organizations. Passionate about education since immigrating to the US at 14, he excelled academically, graduating as valedictorian and pursuing degrees at Fresno State. With four bachelors and two masters in five years, he’s now pursuing a doctorate in organizational psychology. Since 2010, Matias has served various roles in community organizations, currently overseeing 200+ staff, fellows, and volunteers. He lives with his partner and two dogs, enjoying salsa dancing, swimming, shopping, and listening to audiobooks.

Track 2: Breakout Groups
Navigating Admission and Funding for Graduate Education | Anderson-Clarke Center Room 108

This breakout session will cover how to advise students on pathways for accessing and funding graduate education including research and professional degree programs, and tangible steps institutions can take to help meet the needs of undocumented graduate and professional students.

William Perez, Professor of Education, Loyola Marymount University 

William Perez, Ph.D. is a professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University. His research focuses on the civic engagement, multilingualism, and academic resilience of immigrant, undocumented, indigenous, and deported students in the U.S. and Mexico. He has received various awards for his community-engaged research from AERA, ASHE, AESA, the Fulbright Scholars Program and most recently, the 2023 LMU Award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The impact of his scholarship has been recognized by Education Week’s annual ranking of the top university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice. He received his BA from Pomona College and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Sara Hernandez, Associate Dean for Inclusion, Cornell Graduate School

Hernández serves on the Vice Provost for Graduate Education’s senior leadership team providing strategic management for initiatives and policies related to access, diversity, inclusion, equity, and systemic change in graduate education. Hernández also co-leads the Faculty Advancing Inclusive Mentoring (FAIM) Resource Center, a collaborative initiative with the Provost’s Office for Faculty Development & Diversity. Hernández is the PI for a Sloan Foundation-funded grant focused on improving equity-based holistic admissions and mentoring practices in graduate education and is a member of the leadership team for the national Equity in Graduate Education Consortium. Hernández is a first-generation college graduate holding a B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master’s degree from Cornell University.

Retention & Post-Graduation | Anderson-Clarke Center Room 115

This breakout session will focus on elevating campus initiatives and promising practices in the areas of student programming, alumni engagement, and holistic supports for undocumented graduate and professional students. This session will also have a special focus on licensure challenges and how some institutions have addressed them.

Rachel Ray, Managing Attorney at UC Immigrant Legal Services Center, UC Davis

Rachel (J.D., UC Davis School of Law) began work with undocumented youth in 2006 as an after school program leader. This work led her to a career in immigration legal advocacy, including her current work as a Managing Attorney with the UC Immigrant Legal Services Center, where she has been an attorney since 2015. Her immigration legal experience includes removal defense, family and humanitarian based immigration, and business immigration work at private firms and nonprofit organizations. She is committed to working toward greater inclusivity and sustainability in all aspects of higher education and beyond. 

Jessica Mena Flores, Program Administrator at Undocumented Graduate Student Success & Firebaugh Scholars Undergraduate Research Program, UC Berkeley

Jessica supports undocumented, low-income, first-generation college, and minoritized graduate students at UC Berkeley and as an DACAmented professional, Jessica enjoys connecting with students and creating space for them to be their authentic selves. Jessica has lived in the bay area most of her life and loves going on walks with her fur child Rocky Germán Flores. Fun Fact: Jessica enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and re-connecting with friends, family, and colleagues!

Valeria Chávez-Ayala, Assistant Director at Undocumented, First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center, Brown University

My name is Valeria, and I identify as a queer undocumented Latina woman. I was born in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico, and grew up throughout Southern California and the Bay Area. I completed my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz! Go Banana Slugs! After graduating from my alma mater, I supported the Undocumented Student Services Program and served as an Academic Counselor for the Undocumented Student Program at UC Berkeley. I recently completed my master’s in Urban Education Policy at Brown University. I am the Assistant Director at the U-FLi Center at Brown University. I am happy to tell you more about my graduate school experience as a DACAmented individual and moving from California to Providence, Rhode Island.

4:15-6:00 PM

Networking Break | Anderson-Clarke Center Lobby

5:30-6:00 PM

Shuttle to the Cohen House | Anderson-Clarke Center Lobby

6:00-8:30 PM

Dinner & Awards Recognition | Cohen House

The inaugural SUCCESS awards ceremony recognizes students, institutions, and higher education leaders making a difference in supporting undocumented students’ access and success on their campuses and beyond. 

Awardees

Student Leaders

Britney Ortiz, Undergraduate 25’, University of Central Florida

Karely Amaya, Graduate Student 24’, University of California Los Angeles

Institutions

Bunker Hill Community College

City University of New York

Dominican University 

Florida International University

Metropolitan State University of Denver

University of Houston 

Campus Leaders

Nancy Cantor, Chancellor, Rutgers University-Newark

Lane Glenn, President, Northern Essex Community College

Elsa Núnez, President, Eastern Connecticut State University

8:15-8:45 PM

Shuttle to Houston Marriott Medical Center/Museum District | Cohen House

Participants may also walk.

Day Two – Saturday, March 30


8:00-9:00 AM

Breakfast & Registration | Houston Marriott Medical Center/Museum District

9:00-10:00 AM

Welcome & Keynotes | Ballroom
Raj Echambadi, President, Illinois Institute of Technology

Raj Echambadi became the 10th president of Illinois Institute of Technology in August 2021. Echambadi’s vision for Illinois Tech is centered on a new path to preeminence driven by four principles: first, honoring and strengthening the university’s role as an engine of opportunity and a national leader in economic mobility; second, pursuing growth through reimagining education to serve learners at all stages of life; third, fueling future innovation by empowering students; and fourth, exemplifying purpose-driven citizenship in service of the Bronzeville neighborhood, Chicago, and the world. Echambadi received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Anna University in India and a doctorate in marketing from the University of Houston. His academic research focuses on strategic innovation within organizations and how firms should balance current and future opportunities. He has won numerous teaching and research accolades including the prestigious Academy of Management Journal Best Paper Award for his work on employee entrepreneurship.

Astou Thiane, Director of Policy and Advocacy, ImmSchools

Astou was born in Dakar, Senegal and immigrated to the US at age 7. She grew up in Harlem, NYC and served for 6 years as a middle school educator and school leader in New York City. Over the past year 3 years, she has leveraged her experiences as an undocumented immigrant and educator to impact equitable policy outcomes for communities of color. She currently leads policy efforts at ImmSchools, an immigrant-led non-profit organization that works to transform schools into safe and welcoming spaces immigrant-origin students and their families.

10:00 AM-12:00 PM

Introduction and Overview: Thriving Beyond The Academy: Opportunities For Income Generation | Ballroom

This track will provide colleges & universities with information to increase awareness and skills in building support within their institutions about income generation opportunities, regardless of work authorization.

Iliana Perez, Executive Director, Immigrants Rising (see Day 1 – Welcome)

Panel | Ballroom

This panel will highlight the diverse journeys of entrepreneurs from New York, California & Texas to debunk stereotypes and encourage a more inclusive perspective of entrepreneurship. It will also address the importance of resilience and resourcefulness when confronted with significant barriers. Additionally, the entrepreneurs will provide practical advice and inspiration to motivate educators to help undocumented students pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams, regardless of the obstacles they face.  

Facilitator: Iliana Perez, Executive Director, Immigrants Rising (see Day 1 – Welcome)

Cris Mercado, Founder & CEO, GrantAnswers

Cris Mercado is Founder & CEO of GrantAnswers, a data, strategy & product consulting firm. GrantAnswers has helped technology, non-profit, and workforce development ventures scale programs nationwide, grow +6x in revenue and secure 5MM grants. Cris has directly served +2200 diverse talent to prepare for tech/design careers and secure scholarships + admissions to top colleges/universities. Trusted by the likes of WSJ, NBC, Teach For America, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce for features, keynotes, and panels, Cris covers immigration, workforce development, education, entrepreneurship, and tech diversity/inclusion.

Valeria Avila Guerrero, Robotics engineer, Aprumo Design

Valeria Avila Guerrero immigrated at age sixteen from Mexico and quickly adapted to a new culture, language, and education system as an undocumented student. She attended Santa Clara University to pursue Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Robotics and Mechatronics. She then found herself struggling to find employment due to not qualifying for DACA. In pursuit of finding alternatives for undocumented STEM professionals to practice their field via entrepreneurship, she started Aprumo Design, an engineering consulting company with an emphasis in mechanical design and automation.

Nestor Vazquez, Entrepreneur, CreationsPC, LLC

Nestor Vazquez, an immigrant entrepreneur, overcame undocumented status through entrepreneurship, starting an online business in business signage and also managing to attend school, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Passionate about mental health advocacy, he currently coordinates a Mental Health First Aid training program at UNT Dallas and the surrounding community while also pursuing a Master’s in Clinical Counseling, aiming to blend entrepreneurship with counseling to uplift and empower his community.

Madeleine Villanueva, Higher Education Manager, Immigrants Rising

Madeleine is a DACAmented Filipina based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a long-time advocate with and for the undocumented community. Currently, she works to build institutional support for undocumented students and educators in California as the Higher Education Manager with Immigrants Rising. Madeleine earned an AA in General Studies, Social & Behavioral Science from Los Angeles Pierce College and a BA in Political Economy from UC Berkeley.

12:00-1:15 PM

Lunch | Ballroom

12:45-1:25 PM

Shuttle to Rice University | Lobby of Marriott

Participants may also walk.

1:30-3:30 PM

Breakout Groups

Helping Students Build An Entrepreneurial Mindset (Beginner) | Anderson-Clarke Center Room 107

This breakout session is a great place for educators to increase their own understanding and confidence about entrepreneurship as well as support their students in building an entrepreneurial mindset. Join us to develop these key steps in fostering opportunities for income generation, regardless of work authorization.

Madeleine Villanueva, Higher Education Manager, Immigrants Rising (see Day 2 – Panel)

Angy Rivera, Co-Executive Director, New York State Youth Leadership Council

Angy Rivera, a queer Colombian immigrant, graduated from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Rivera is the Co- Executive Director of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an immigrant rights non-profit. She created Ask Angy, an award-winning undocumented immigrant online advice column. In 2012, Angy met documentary maker Mikaela Shwer who filmed her and her family for the film No Le Digas A Nadie (Don’t Tell Anyone). The Peabody Award-winning documentary, which aired on PBS in 2015, navigates the difficult reality and double silence Rivera experiences as an undocumented immigrant and survivor of sexual assault.

Michelle Segura, Co-Founder/ Instructor, Self-work by m.e. LLC /Los Angeles City College

Ms. Michelle Segura is a full-time Instructor for Los Angeles City College. She has been an educator at LACCD for over 10 years. Ms. Segura has experience teaching GED prep, Business, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Communication, College exploration amongst other courses. She holds a degree in Marketing from Long Beach State University and MBA from Cal State LA. Previously, Ms. Segura was the Coordinator for the Dream Resource Center at Los Angeles Trade-Tech College. In both roles, she has advocated for students and created new opportunities for engagement in the classroom and outside through student services. Ms. Segura is passionate about designing, implementing, and directing innovative programs that meet critical student needs. She has led training sessions, workshops and provided presentations for students and educators throughout the state of California in joint efforts with the Foundation for Community Colleges, CCC Chancellor’s Office, and Immigrant Risings, a NorCal non-profit organization. More recently, Ms. Segura was awarded the Seed Fund Grant by Immigrants Rising to co-fund a wellness consultant business that aims to promote diversity and inclusion for young working professionals through workshops and other professional training opportunities. Ms. Segura is a dog mom to a sweet 7-year-old pit bull. Together, along with her husband, enjoy sound baths, yoga, and meditations on the weekend.

Engaging Your Career Center to Support Undocumented Students (Intermediate) | Anderson-Clarke Auditorium

This breakout session will provide concrete examples of how to mentor students in their career pathways as well as partner with career centers to increase support for undocumented students & alumni.

Cris Mercado, Founder & CEO, GrantAnswers (see Day 2 – Panel)

Sarah Kim, Founder & CEO, Edu Light, Inc.

Sarah Kim is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Edu Light, Inc., a career consulting firm for first-generation and immigrant students. Providing tailored services, Edu Light helps students explore opportunities from graduate school, internships, and designing their career pathway. Sarah is also the Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships at First Gen Empower (FGE). With 6+ years of experience in Student Affairs and Career Services, she leads efforts to prepare first-generation and undocumented students for success beyond high school through tailored workshops and training educators. Sarah holds a Master’s in Higher Education, with a concentration in student affairs, from Boston College and a B.A. in Sociology from UCLA.

Sharet Garcia, CEO/Founder, UndocuProfessionals Network

Sharet Garcia was an undocumented student that navigated the challenges of pursuing higher education and forging a professional career. Recognizing the lack of guidance from faculty and advisors, she founded UndocuProfessionals to close some gaps. Her journey inspired her to create a community dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for undocumented students transitioning to professionals. UndocuProfessionals offers a brave space for sharing experiences, networking, collaboration, and hosting workshops. We unite undocumented students, professionals, and allies, fostering peer support, professional development, and advocacy for increased career access in higher education and beyond. Join us in building a supportive community for those with similar aspirations and challenges.

Rommel Aguilar Cardenas, Assistant Director, First-Gen+ Center, George Mason University

Rommel is originally from Honduras who moved to the United States to finish high school. As a first-gen college student from a mixed status family, working and supporting first-generation and migrant-origin college students, is very important to him in a professional and personal level. Currently, Rommel serves as an Assistant Director with the First Gen+ Center at GMU supporting the success and well-being of undocumented and refugee students. With over 10 years of experience in student affairs, he has elevated institutional efforts and initiatives to bring about changes that advance the experiences of undocumented students and hopes to continue to bring resources to support their academic journey.

Amy Ware, Assistant Vice President Of External Relations and Career Services, Christian Brothers University

Career development expert with over 19 years of experience in working with students and adults in helping them identify careers and connecting them with employment and internship opportunities. Experienced trainer for employees and students in topics such as career preparation, diversity awareness, change management, leadership and team development, project management, and career assessment and development.

Building an Ecosystem for Entrepreneurship within Your Institution | Anderson-Clarke Room 108

This breakout session will provide an overview of the existing support for entrepreneurship, as well as how these organizations can supplement the efforts of individual educators and higher education institutions.

Iliana Perez, Executive Director, Immigrants Rising (see Day 1 – Welcome)

Nestor Vasquez, Entrepreneur, CreationsPC, LLC (see Day 2 – Panel)

Anh-Thư Nguyễn, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Democracy at Work Institute

As Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), Anh-Thu shapes, develops. and leads partnerships for the Rapid Response Cooperative project, which focuses on creating access to work and entrepreneurship for individuals and communities with barriers to employment.  She also leads DAWI’s New York City-based cooperative development education and technical assistance via the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative–the largest and oldest city-funded worker cooperative development program in the U.S. to date. Anh-Thu’s work has previously encompassed international human rights, social enterprise, and sustainable fashion, and she was most recently named a 2022-23 Coro New York Immigrant Civic Leadership Fellow. She studied Classics and Government at Georgetown University and received her JD from the University of Texas School of Law. 

Valeria Avila Guerrero, Robotics engineer, Aprumo Design (see Day 2 – Panel)

3:30-3:45 PM

Networking Break

3:45-4:50 PM

Opportunities for Employment-Based Pathways | Anderson-Clarke Center Auditorium

This session focuses on the opportunities to support undocumented students and alumni, with and without DACA, to pursue existing employment-based immigration options such as H-1B visas, Advance Parole, Path2Papers initiative, Legal Pathways that Work initiative, as well as efforts related to O4All.

Facilitator: Miriam Feldblum, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance (see Day 1 -Welcome)

Dan Berger, Attorney, Curran, Berger & Kludt LLP

Dan Berger is a partner at the immigration law firm of Curran, Berger & Kludt in Northampton, MA, an Immigration Fellow/Visiting Scholar at Cornell Law School, and an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. He is on the Legal Advisory Board of the Presidents’ Alliance on Immigration & Higher Education, on the Legal Advisory Council of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, and a member of the USCIS Liaison Committee and the Afghanistan Task Force for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He is a frequent writer and speaker on immigration, including after the 2020 election for the Brookings Institute on recommendations for the Biden/Harris Administration and also on strategies to support international entrepreneurs. He co-edited updated editions of Immigration Options for Academics and Researchers and the International Adoption Sourcebook released in 2021. He also wrote an Issue Brief for the American Council on Education (ACE) after the 2016 election, and was a co-author on a “Note” on immigration in 2017 for the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA). Dan has been quoted in various media including the Atlantic Magazine, USA Today, Al Jazeera and the Huffington Post, and is an advisor for the American Immigration Council on their informational website on STEM immigration initiatives.

Sandra Bruno, Attorney, Miller Mayer, LLP

Sandra Bruno is a Partner in Miller Mayer’s Immigration practice group. Mrs. Bruno has extensive experience obtaining employment-based immigrant (permanent) and non-immigrant (temporary) visas for a variety of employers, including healthcare organizations, start-ups, and universities. Mrs. Bruno has also guided numerous entrepreneurs and investors through the U.S. immigration system and consular process. In addition, Mrs. Bruno’s experience includes helping individuals with family-based immigration matters, DACA, and waivers of inadmissibility. She is a native Spanish speaker. Mrs. Bruno is a member of the New York and Illinois State bars. She received her J.D. from Tulane University Law School and her B.A. from Princeton University.

Stephany Martinez Tiffer, Attorney, Center for Immigration Law & Policy at UCLA School of Law

Stephany Martinez Tiffer is a Staff Attorney at the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at UCLA School of Law. Stephany works on litigation, policy advocacy, and strategic communications. Prior to joining CILP, Stephany was an associate at Keker, Van Nest & Peters where she worked on complex civil litigation matters and maintained a prominent pro bono practice. Stephany graduated from UCLA School of Law, where she obtained a specialization in public interest law and policy. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Before law school, Stephany worked on Immigrants’ Rights advocacy in her local Bay Area community.

Felecia Russell, Director, Higher Ed Immigration Portal, Presidents’ Alliance (see Day 1 – Lunch)

5:00-6:00 PM

Closing Reception | Anderson-Clarke Center Lobby

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