Center for Undocumented Students Gets New Name

Audirana holds up a sweatshirt with the new logo of what is now known as the Undocumented Student Resource Center
Doctoral candidate Adriana Quintana-Lopez holds up a sweatshirt with the new logo of what will now be called the Undocumented Student Resource Center. (Greg Urquiaga/UC Davis)

For almost eight years, doctoral candidate Adriana Quintana-Lopez has found a-home-away-from-home at what has been the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center in the Student Community Center. 

“The center was one of the biggest determinants of my retention,” said the undocumented student who commutes from Point Reyes Station. 

Quintana-Lopez and others are helping make the center even more welcoming for other students with an official name change and an updated graphic element. The name is now the Undocumented Student Resource Center, or USRC for short. New signage is expected to be installed by the end of June.

“This name creates a sense of belonging, community and a welcoming environment for our current and future undocumented and immigrant student community members,” Laura Monica Bohorquez Garcia, director of the center, wrote in requesting the name change through campus policy.

A growing network of support

Opened in October 2014, the center offers undocumented students community, coordinates resources for them and supports their success. It also raises campus awareness about governmental policies affecting them. Estimates are that about 420 undocumented students are enrolled at UC Davis.

Quintana-Lopez got involved in the center when she came to UC Davis in 2015 as a transfer student to major in Chicana/Chicano studies. Through her undergraduate time and now doctoral studies in the School of Education, she’s served as a front desk volunteer, a member of the center’s speakers bureau, a student researcher and now the programming and resource coordinator for graduate and professional students.

Recently, Quintana-Lopez has helped bring about the name change.

Taking stock for 10th anniversary

With the center’s 10th anniversary approaching this fall, the center began last academic year to reflect on its work and envision the future. “We were really looking at our community’s needs and changes in the political climate and everything that encompasses our experiences as undocumented students,” Quintana-Lopez said.

The center is an important community resource for undocumented students. They can often experience discrimination based on their lack of legal status, ethnic background and economic disadvantage, and they may also fear deportation of themselves or their family.

Focus groups and polling

In focus groups with center staff, students and alumni, what emerged was the need to drop AB540 from the name. The center serves undocumented students regardless of their eligibility for or status under AB540.

The state assembly bill, passed in 2002 and also known as the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption, exempts students from paying nonresident college tuition if they have attended a California high school for at least three years, graduated from a California high school and met other requirements. However, sometimes undocumented communities have been mistakenly referred to as AB540 students. 

Bohorquez Garcia said students also don’t want to be identified by a government law. Quintana-Lopez agreed: “It’s just an affidavit form you fill out to qualify for in-state tuition.” 

Earlier this year, Quintana-Lopez helped administer broader polling on names suggested by the focus groups.

She said she is pleased with the new name. “We want the center to feel and be welcoming of all identities, races and ethnicities within the undocumented community,” Quintana-Lopez said. 

A closeup of the new graphic element for the Undocumented Student Resource Center on a sweatshirt
What is now called the Undocumented Student Resoruce Center has a new graphic element that is an abstract illustration of people in collaboration and community. (Greg Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The new graphic element — an abstract, multi-color illustration representing people in collaboration and community —  was adopted to embrace the different backgrounds of undocumented students. It replaces the center’s use of butterfly imagery, often associated with the migration of Latin American immigrants. 

An analysis of the American Community Survey found that 46% of undocumented students in the nation are Hispanic, 27% are Asian and Pacific Islander, 14% are Black and close to 14% are white.

An invitation to faculty and staff

In addition to welcoming students to the center, Quintana-Lopez extended an invitation to faculty and staff: “They are also welcome [to come] into the space to learn and understand about our experiences and how they can be better advocates for our community.”

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