Psychology assistant professors Susana Lopez and Jesus Serrano-Carega are looking for students to participate in their study on the mental health of undocumented students. 

Lopez and Serrano-Carega want to collect data and students’ experiences across all California universities, starting with Cal Poly. 

“The way it started was just trying to understand how people describe themselves because there are many different ways that undocumented students get labeled,” Serrano-Carega said.

The two shared a common interest in this demographic of students, with Serrano-Carega specializing in social psychology with a focus on the quantitative aspect of the study alongside Lopez, who specializes in interviewing and practices primarily clinical psychology. 

“We thought it was a great merge of a social psychologist and a clinical psychologist coming together to look at the undocumented experiences of students,” Lopez said. “Not only at Cal Poly, but throughout in looking at identity, sense of belonging, mental health, and also hopefully, advocating for better mental health for this population.”

Serrano-Carega describes that students from this group can be called “undocumented,” which can come with negative affiliations, or “dreamers,” which often have positive connotations of being good students or accomplishing goals.

Through anonymous surveys and interviews with participants, Lopez and Serrano-Carega hope to better understand how undocumented students view themselves and feel on college campuses. 

Questions will consider experiences such as how welcoming a college campus may feel. 

“We wanted to ask what’s the most culturally humble way to ask these questions in a safe way,” Lopez said. “It took us a long time because every question we would be like, is this the best way to ask it? We understand it’s a vulnerable population.” 

After two years of curating questions for interviews and surveys, Lopez and Serrano-Careaga are excited to explore a topic that has yet to be given interest. 

“My big dream is, ‘oh, this could be helpful’ and maybe information for those making choices, and they can really consider some things that come out of the student experience,” Lopez said.

For those interested in taking the survey, it can be found here. The survey will also ask if participants are interested in a Zoom interview to share more about their experiences.