Joseline Tlacomulco (middle), from Ruth Hernandez’s class (right) on “Introduction to Latin America and the Caribbean,” was awarded the 2018 “Undergraduate Social Action Award” by Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), a national nonprofit professional organization dedicated to efforts related to feminist action, including promoting social justice through local, national, and international activism. This recognition is awarded to a student making a substantial contribution to improving the lives of women in society through their activism. At the award reception held in Atlanta, Georgia, Joseline gave a moving speech that was met with a standing ovation and her recognition was referred to as the “highlight of the event.”
Joseline’s personal experience as a baby carried across borders and deserts inspired her to become involved in immigration issues which affect her livelihood as an undocumented woman of color. In her personal essay Joseline wrote, “many times I felt I was the only undocumented student on campus. I didn’t know anyone at UConn who was undocumented, making it hard for me to trust those in my social environment. It was through this difficult experience that my own identity as an undocumented student pushed me to realize the lack of resources for undocumented students. Then, there were no scholarships offered by the university for undocumented students, the schools website did not include any information about matriculating as an undocumented student, and finally, there were no steps or an action plan to fix these institutional issues. I asked myself, how could a leading institution and New England’s ‘flagship university’ have zero resources to help their undocumented students?”
To address these and other issues Joseline became a community organizer for Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) and her work has significantly improved the lives of undocumented students at UConn. To enact social change Joseline leads workshops for faculty and staff concerning undocumented student populations, works with administration on various protocols, and facilitates legal aid services for undocumented students. Her efforts have amounted to protocols and transparent resources for undocumented students such as a web page on the financial aid website. The testimonial from Eleanor JB Daugherty, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students stated, “Joseline’s work for CT Students for A Dream is deeply compelling and has motivated University leaders such as myself to come forward and seek changes that would enable undocumented students to have a safe, accessible, and affordable college experience.”
Following the presidential inauguration of 2016, Joseline spearheaded efforts that facilitated open and much needed discussions about how immigration reform and other laws would affect UConn students. Following a campus-wide march, Joseline attended meetings to ensure that undocumented students would be safe at UConn. These efforts resulted in UConn examining its policies and protocols for the protection of undocumented students.
In addition to her grassroots work, Joseline is committed to student growth and is a frequent guest lecturer for many departments. Joseline’s lectures are complex and critical, and she offers students the opportunity to think through issues of diversity, as well as access to resources. Through her work, Joseline has become a mentor to many undergraduate students, such as Malachi Bridges who wrote the following testimony: “Joseline is an activist that is always willing to learn, work, help and teach. Among all these roles, she allocates the same 110% effort.” Another student, Laura Bedoya stated, “I admire Joseline’s fearlessness and ability to advocate for herself and many others. She inspires me stand firm in my beliefs.” It is clear that Joseline is a gifted speaker and is able to use her lived experiences to communicate issues often left out of curriculum about the diverse problems students of color at our university face today.