Kristi Henderson
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

KU professor receives Carnegie Fellowship

Wed, 04/26/2017

LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas professor at the forefront of immigration research has received a prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship.

Cecilia Menjívar, Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology, is one of 35 scholars to receive the award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The fellowship supports research in social sciences and humanities with up to $200,000 awarded to each fellow. It is the most generous stipend of its kind.

Menjívar is co-director of the Center for Migration Research at KU with Victor Agadjanian, also Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology. Her research explores U.S.-bound migration from Central America from a variety of perspectives, including its legal, social and economic dynamics. The fellowship will allow Menjívar to expand research on immigrants living in between legal statuses.

“I am so pleased to congratulate Cecilia Menjívar on this well-deserved recognition. Her project comes at a crucial time, when immigration is one of the most widely discussed issues in current politics,” said Carl Lejuez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “Her research promises to enhance our understanding of how a complex system affects individuals on a deeply personal basis.”

Menjívar is the second KU researcher in three years to be named a Carnegie Fellow. Greg Cushman, associate professor of history and environmental studies, earned the honor in 2015.

For the past 15 years, Menjívar has been collecting data on immigrants who live in legal limbo, where they may have certain privileges due to a work permit or stay of deportation, but are denied some rights such as access to social benefits or long-term residence. With fellowship support, she will be able to write a book, tentatively called “The Temporariness of Legality.”

“Not only will this award allow me the time to dedicate myself to writing about the experiences of immigrants living in different legal statuses today, but the stature and renown of this award will permit me to reach broader audiences,” Menjívar said. “This is critical, especially given the conditions for immigrants today and the importance of disseminating evidence-based research about their lives that can dispel myths about who they are.”

The book project will build on previous studies authored or co-authored by Menjívar aimed at revealing what it means for immigrants to live for years, if not decades, in tenuous legal spaces created by gaps and inconsistencies in federal immigration law. It will also be one of the first studies to look at the effects of the new trend of integrating local-level enforcement into federal efforts to control immigration.

The book will be based on two connected sources of data on Central American immigrants, mostly Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans in the United States, more than half of whom have uncertain legal status. The first source Menjívar will draw from is a 15-year qualitative study of Central American migration to Phoenix, one of the longest studies of an immigrant-receiving destination in the U.S. today. Those findings will be complemented by results of the only national-level survey of Salvadoran and Honduran immigrants who have been on Temporary Protected Status since 1999 and 2001, respectively. The survey includes responses from more than 2,000 people in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, the Washington, D.C., metro, and New York/New Jersey. This survey was a project of the KU Center for Migration Research.

“I am deeply honored, humbled and thankful to Carnegie. Equally important, I am grateful to the KU community, my wonderful colleagues and students, to the Institute for Policy & Social Research for top-notch grant assistance, and to the administration for supporting my work and for creating spaces to advance projects that can benefit the more vulnerable members of society,” Menjívar said. 

Menjívar joined the KU faculty as a Foundation Distinguished Professor in 2015. She is a prolific and award-winning author. Two of her books, “Enduring Violence: Ladina Women’s Lives in Guatemala” and “Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America,” have both received numerous awards and accolades. She has edited or co-edited 10 volumes, written more than 100 articles and book chapters, and a number of additional reviews and commentaries. She is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She has served on editorial boards of more than a dozen prestigious journals in sociology, Latino studies, gender studies and social justice, and she is past vice president of the American Sociological Association.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from the University of Southern California, a master’s degree in international education from USC, a master’s degree in sociology from University of California, Davis; and a doctorate in sociology from UC, Davis. She also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley.

Each year as part of the fellows program, the Carnegie Corporation seeks nominations from more than 600 leaders representing a range of universities, think tanks, publishers, independent scholars and nonprofit organizations nationwide. For the class of 2017, they nominated some 200 candidates whose proposals were reviewed and rated by one or more of the 33 prominent scholars, educators and intellectuals who serve as anonymous evaluators.

The Center for Migration Research promotes and coordinates KU research on causes, types and consequences of human migration at the state, regional, national and global levels. It is one of eight research centers supported by KU’s Institute for Policy & Social Research.

The Department of Sociology is part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit. 

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