Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales, Asst. Professor, Leadership Studies

Building Bridges Across Barriers

Teaching leadership to aspiring educators and administrators

Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales grew up near the United States-Mexico border in Southern California, a fact that’s shaped her as a researcher, educator, and activist.

Now an assistant professor of leadership studies at USF’s School of Education, Genevieve, at 16, campaigned against California’s Proposition 187 — a 1994 ballot measure approved by voters that denied undocumented immigrants access to public services. That fall, she watched as the U.S. Border Patrol launched Operation Gatekeeper, increasing border policing.

“In many ways, immigration politics were always a part of my life and upbringing. I grew up during some of the pivotal moments in California history and the state’s attacks on immigrants,” she says. “As a Chicano professor, it’s really important that my work contributes to a public conversation around building a more equitable society.”

Genevieve’s interests lie at the intersection of undocumented immigrants, political activism, and higher education. In 2013, she received a Jesuit Foundation grant to support her research on undocumented community college students in California’s Central Valley and the ways their lives are wrapped up in discourses about who has a right to belong.

In many ways, immigration politics were always a part of my life and upbringing. I grew up during some of the pivotal moments in California history and the state’s attacks on immigrants. As a Chicano professor, it’s really important that my work contributes to a public conversation around building a more equitable society."

At the School of Education, she teaches leadership to aspiring educators and administrators in the Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program.

But equally important, she leads by example.

As chair of USF’s Task Force for Support and Services of Undocumented Students, Genevieve advocates for one of USF’s most vulnerable student populations — many of whom face financial challenges and the ever-present fear that they or their family members will be deported. Often, she says, they are also responsible for younger siblings and cousins.

“Many of these students don’t have a desire to get the degree for themselves. They see it as connected to a much broader responsibility to their community,” she says. “It’s about lifting up entire communities, and it’s important that we as a Jesuit institution committed to the principles of education and social justice and welcome and support these students.”

This spring, the task force hosted UndocuAlly at USF, a workshop for faculty and staff on how to best serve undocumented students. They plan to host more trainings for staff working in admissions, financial aid, and other areas of the university.

It’s really exciting for me to be in a place that explicitly talks about social justice. USF encourages us to be public intellectuals, to do work that isn’t just confined to obscure academic journals but that contributes to the public debate and bridges the divide between the community and the ivory tower."

Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales