For Me, Us, and Them: Immigrant Families Pursuing Higher Education in Southern California
Corinne Kentor

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Teachers College, Columbia University

Primary Discipline

Human Development
Educational opportunity is often presented as a central motivation for migration. Despite the challenges they face, immigrant families express high future ambitions, as evidenced by the increasing number of immigrant and first generation students enrolling in higher education. Research has recently begun to explore these students? experiences in college; however, less is known about how immigrant families collectively navigate the high-school-to-postsecondary transition. This dissertation draws on two years of ethnographic research conducted in southern California to investigate how family migration shapes academic and professional trajectories after high school, treating the pursuit of higher learning as a shared endeavor. In my research, I focus on understanding how migration experiences (whether their own or those of family members) impact students? goals and transition experiences; in addition, I investigate how family members get involved in one another?s educational pursuits while responding to the constraints posed by the United States? punitive immigration policies. Though there is substantial research documenting immigrant families? experiences in K-12 schools, most studies of higher education focus on students as individual learners. By prioritizing the experiences of extended kin-networks, I counter this individualistic focus, showing how academic outcomes for college-goers are impacted not only by the policies that affect their access to education, but also by those that shape the experiences of their loved ones, including caregivers and younger relatives. My research thus shows how families collectively engage in the pursuit of educational opportunity across national and institutional borders.
About Corinne Kentor
Corinne Kentor is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology & Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on the intersection of immigration and higher education policy, investigating how legal frameworks shape the lives of mixed-status families in the United States. As an ethnographer and educator, Corinne is deeply committed to working in collaboration with families to instigate reform. Her research asks scholars and practitioners to expand their thinking about who is affected by the choices made on college campuses and in high school counseling offices, showing how entire communities are affected by the policies and priorities that shape the landscape of higher education in the present day. Corinne graduated with honors from Yale University, where she earned a B.A. in English and a certificate in Education Studies. In 2018, she was named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. That same year, she joined the research and evaluation staff at the City University of New York Office of Research, Evaluation & Program Support. At CUNY, Corinne researches students? transitions from high school to college and from college to the workforce. She also supports research and evaluation efforts for We Speak We LEAD, a program that provides language learning and workforce development for immigrant women in the New York area. Corinne is a dedicated, community-driven activist working to advance the right to family, mobility, and education in the places she calls home.

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