Marco A. Murillo Honored by AERA with 2017 Outstanding Dissertation Award

Urban Schooling alumnus recognized for research on undocumented students.

At a time when schools are confronted with rising levels of fear and anxiety among undocumented student and their families, the work of a young scholar is shedding new light on the needs of these students and steps educators can take to further their educational success.

Marco A. Murillo, a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education, and a 2015 recipient of a Ph.D. in Education (’15, Urban Schooling) from the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, has been honored as the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Dissertation Award by the American Education Research Association.

Murillo’s research interests focus on the secondary school experience of immigrant youth as well as issues relating to college access for low-income, students of color. And his dissertation, “Marking Legal Status: A High School’s Response to Issues of Documentation and the Needs of Undocumented Students,” has been published as students and schools are confronted by potential changes to immigration and education policy under the Trump Administration.

The work is timely to say the least, and Murillo wants to take advantage of the opportunity in order to help educators who are working with undocumented students.

“I have family and friends whose educational opportunities have been constrained by issues of immigration,” says Murillo. I feel a greater responsibility to communicate with educators about my research in ways that apply to what they are doing in schools.

Until recently, there has been little research on the educational experiences of undocumented students. Emerging research shows that undocumented students face unique educational challenges and barriers because of their legal status. Murillo’s dissertation contributes to research on undocumented youth by examining school responses to the growing presence of undocumented students in the public-school system. It also offers a deep look at the high school experience of Latino undocumented students. The study addresses the influence of federal and state immigration related policies on undocumented students access to higher education, school-level processes and systems in place to support undocumented students as they prepare to transition out of high school, and the school contexts in which issues of legal status and documentation arise.

“I hope my dissertation provides insight about how schools can foster a community where undocumented students are acknowledged and supported, says Murillo.   Despite lingering questions about how to best support undocumented students and the difficulty in keeping pace with the changing policy context, it remained crucial for educators to be intentional about discussing issues of documentation and creating an inclusive environment for undocumented students.”

Murillo created the recent UCLA Community School Research, Practice and Policy Brief, “Supporting College-going for Undocumented Students.” To read the brief, click here.


Photo courtesy of Marco Murillo