BMCC Presents Significant Findings Speaker Series

The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) Office of Academic Affairs premiered its speaker series, Significant Findings, October 25 in Richard Harris Terrace at 199 Chambers Street. The series is free and open to the public.

Criminal Justice Professor Shirley Leyro, the first featured speaker, shared initial findings from her research project, CUNY American Dream Machine? Exploring Feelings of Belonging and Membership by CUNY Noncitizen Students.

Twice each semester, BMCC’s Significant Findings speaker series will showcase BMCC faculty scholar research, ideas and conversations of public relevance. The event is supported by the Dr. Joshua Smith Faculty Development Fund, administered by the BMCC Foundation. The next Significant Findings is scheduled for November 8 with Sociology Professor Elizabeth Wissinger.

“Many of our faculty are working on publicly relevant societal issues such as Professor Leyro’s work on the impact of immigration status on belonging and mental health,” said Helene Bach, director of research, BMCC. “We are hoping this event will gain traction and public support and contribute scholarly input from our faculty to discussions that impact our urban communities.”

BMCC Associate Dean of Faculty Jim Berg says faculty often feel isolated from one another and the Significant Findings event offers an opportunity to connect with other faculty.

“Faculty may want to offer support to their colleagues, find out what they are working on, and maybe even find connections to their own work,” said Berg.

Leyro’s research explores how the fear of deportation affects CUNY students.  She found that students who are not facing deportation themselves, are still impacted by the fear that a relative or friend might face deportation.

Immigrant students from 35 countries and varying status—green card holders, undocumented, documented and others—were recruited to the study from CUNY campuses. Survey data was gathered online. Questions centered around a wide range of topics including whether or not participants felt as if they belong, questions of identity and self esteem. Leyro’s findings show anxiety levels and fear related to deportation are high among those surveyed.

“Students who participate in on-campus activities and are involved in college groups feel a higher level of membership than those who do not. However, even among those who say they feel a sense of belonging, students still express sentiments that indicate membership and belonging is tenuous,” said Leyro.

After Leyro’s presentation, Berg led a question- and-answer session between Leyro and audience members. One student’s question illustrated the grim reality many immigrant students worry could impact them, especially in today’s political climate.

The student asked if there were options that might be available in other countries if deportation happens.

Leyro explained that unfortunately, deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) entails apprehension, then being flown back to the immigrant’s native country—nothing else.

CUNY is home to large numbers of immigrant students and Leyro argues that all campuses should provide Immigrant Resource Centers, such as the Immigrant Student Success Center at John Jay College (CUNY). She also says more scholarship money for immigrant students would allow them to stay in school.

“The fact that they are excluded from funding sources that would allow them to stay in school contributes to their anxiety and sense of not belonging– any exclusionary practices would make a student feel that way,” Leyro said.

For more information about services BMCC offers immigrant students, visit the Immigrant Support page.