Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) Administrators? Experiences with Undocumented Students and Related State Policies
Blanca Vega

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Research Development Award

Award Year



Montclair State University

Primary Discipline

Higher Education
The goal of this project is to understand how higher education and student affairs administrators (HESAA) experience, interpret, and act upon varied federal, state, and postsecondary policies. This work will contribute to the field of higher education by exploring the skills, competencies, and knowledge HESAAs use to navigate such complex environments. The purpose of this research is to provide HESAAs with more guidance in their work with undocumented students so that undocumented students may feel more supported in postsecondary environments. The following questions guide this study: How do HESAAs navigate conflicting federal, state, and university politics and practices related to undocumented students? I plan to employ an embedded case study methodology, drawing on a sample of six states whose policy approaches fall into the three categories: inclusive (New Jersey and Minnesota); exclusionary (South Carolina and Alabama); and neutral policies (Pennsylvania and North Carolina). I will conduct in depth semi-structured interviews with HESAAs in each state as well as analyze relevant documents. Data from this research will be of interest to state and higher education policymakers, HESA professionals, and researchers. In particular HESAAs will be interested in understanding their role in possibly contributing or creating barriers to undocumented students’ accessing postsecondary benefits.
About Blanca Vega
A native New Yorker, Dr. Blanca E. Vega is the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants. Dr. Vega is currently assistant professor of higher education at Montclair State University. Her scholarship broadly focuses on equity, access, and success in higher education among underserved populations. Her primary area of research situates racism as one of multiple barriers that affects higher education experiences and success – not just for students, but also for administrators and faculty. Her research agenda includes studying racial conflict in higher education and organizational responses to these conflicts. Her secondary area of research explores leadership and policymaking and their impact on support for undocumented student in higher education. Finally, Dr. Vega continues to explore discourse and tensions around organizations that shape discourse around Latinxs and Latinidad. Dr. Vega earned a doctorate (Ed.D) from the Higher and Postsecondary Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. During and prior to that time, she worked in various administrative positions within higher education spanning over 16 years. Some of these areas include financial aid counseling and coordinating and directing New York State opportunity programs such as the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) and the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). Dr. Vega earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from Brandeis University and a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education at New York University.

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