National Forum Partners with Dr. Federico Subervi and Manuel Aviles-Santiago in Researching Undocumented Student Access to Higher Education

The National Forum is partnering with scholars around the nation to produce three research papers on undocumented students in higher education.

“The Forum identified gaps in the literature regarding higher education officials’ response to the crisis regarding undocumented students,” says Angela Vidal-Rodriguez, leader of the Higher Education Access research team at the National Forum.  “After that, the Forum reached out to the leading experts in media, law, and collective organizing to fill the void.”

The three scholars were invited to write papers addressing the role these factors play in issues regarding undocumented students, through funding from the Carnegie Foundation.  The research is already well underway, and the finished papers will be available on the National Forum website this spring.

Dr. Federico Subervi, Full Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Media & Markets at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Texas State University-San Marcos, and Manuel Aviles-Santiago, Research Assistant and doctoral student, are investigating the impact of media upon higher education.  They study Latino journalism, news coverage in Spanish and English media of Latino issues, and political communication strategies aimed toward the Latino portion of the electorate.

Dr. Subervi and Mr. Avile-Santiago were kind enough to take the time to share some information regarding their paper for the website.

National Forum:  Could you share some details about the paper?

Manuel Avile-Santiago: Our research explores how the voice of higher education institutions such as universities and community colleges has been presented in the general market (mainstream) press in news stories pertaining to undocumented students and the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, also known as DREAM Act.  We are currently looking at three major national newspapers: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today.  What is the position of higher education institutions in the debates about the DREAM Act?  How does the press frame their position?  How social media contested and/or reproduced those frames?  These are some of the questions that we aim to answer with this study.

National Forum:  What are some ways in which media have impacted undocumented students in higher education in the past?

Manuel Avile-Santiago:  Media coverage has affected the framing of the DREAM Act in several levels.  Our preliminary observations suggest that during the first years of the debates around the DREAM Act, the press coverage consisted primarily of personal narratives and/or vignettes that told the stories of undocumented students and their attempt to enter or complete higher education.  Usually, these stories were followed up focusing on the lives of those students. However, with the increment of social media platforms such as blogs, and networking sites, the role of studied press changed drastically, turning the news focus primarily to the activism and mobilization initiated by and taking place via the social media.  That is one of the coverage patterns we will be discussing in our project.

National Forum:  What are some ways in which the topic of immigration in higher education relate to your previous research?

Dr. Federico Subervi:  I have conducted various studies of how general market newspapers and TV portray Latinos in news and entertainment.  This study is more focused on a particular issue, and a very important one for our youth as well as society at large.

National Forum:  Ideally, what would you like to study in the future related to immigration and institutions of higher education?

Manuel Avile-Santiago:  One thing we noticed during our preliminary research is that the coverage tends to focus in the political aspect of the issue.  However, there is an array of cultural and social specific implications when discussing these topics.  Those are areas that have been ignored by mainstream press, have been brought up by individuals in social media platforms.  That is where this research is heading to in terms of development.  Also, we would like to assess how this topic has been covered in selected television networks and programs.


The National Forum would like to thank Federico and Manuel for taking the time to share information about their research projects.  More information about their past and current research can be found at the University of Texas website, at Federico Subervi’s bio and Manuel Aviles-Santiago bio pages.  




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