2016 Individual Grant Winner

Hannah Noel

Global and Intercultural Studies

Writing Towards Success: Individualized Writing-Intensive Mentorship for Non-Traditional Students Planning Careers in Higher Education


The path towards a career in higher education is full of blind spots for non-traditional students. This is particularly true for individuals in their thirties who are adjusting to returning to school after a career in military service and having a family, or for individuals who were not born in the United States. This grant proposal seeks funding for a writing-intensive summer workshop for exceptional non-traditional graduate and undergraduate students pursuing careers in higher education. Studies have shown that individualized mentoring of engaged students is most effective at achieving career and psychosocial success (Gonzalez-Figueroa and Young, 2005; Huwe and Johnson, 2003; Kram, 1988; Sassi and Thomas, 2012; Valentin et. al. 2016; Zalaquett and Lopez, 2006).

Given the intensive writing and mentorship goals of this project, I will mentor two previous students (one graduate and one undergraduate.) Over the course of the summer, the participants of the workshop will produce a variety of forms of writing including: I will co-write an essay on pedagogy intended for peer-reviewed publication with my graduate student, both students and I will produce book reviews intended for peer-reviewed publication, and my undergraduate student will produce a writing sample for his PhD graduate school applications. These two students are indicative of Miami University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and this intensive summer mentorship workshop will help to insure that they succeed and become outstanding faculty members at institutions of higher education.

In the context of this proposal, I am defining “non-traditional” broadly in terms of: age, socio-economic status, first-generation college student status, citizenship/student visa status, former military status, as well as parental status. In conversations with my colleagues at institutions throughout the United States, many attest that it is non-traditional college students who are often the most engaged, hardest working, and among the most creative thinkers in classrooms because of their unique and varied life experiences. Long-term educational studies find that when “protégés who produce good work are rewarded with more mentorship” they are more likely to view the mentorship relationship as transformative and successful (Huwe and Johnson, 2003, 47). Both of the individuals involved in this study have proven to be model students; however, it has been many years since they have stepped foot in a classroom and their statuses as “non-traditional” means that they encounter daily challenges, like trying to locate child care in emergency situations or restrictions on research travel due to visa status, that the majority of Miami students do not encounter. This workshop seeks out such students to provide two enthusiastic and intellectually inquisitive students with targeted writing-based mentorship that recognizes the uniqueness of their situations.

Specifically, this summer-long mentorship will be personalized for each student, and also involve a group component. One participate is a graduate student who is attending Miami on a student visa. This student and I have worked together on a semester long independent study. Building off our experiences in helping to organize the 4th Annual César Chávez Commemorative Program Academic Forum where my undergraduate and graduate student will present their research, this summer grant will allow us to further develop and write a joint-authored essay for submission at a peer-reviewed publication. As discussed in the third section of this grant proposal, this paper contributes to ongoing academic discussions about the development of best practices for a responsible, community-focused pedagogy for Latino Studies classrooms in the rural and historically white Midwest. The second student is an undergraduate student who is currently enrolled in courses at the regional campuses and the Oxford campus, and has taken two courses with me. As a first generation college student, former marine, and single father of two this student has stood out in terms of drive, creativity, and writing skills in the classroom. As a junior-level student, I will mentor him as he prepares to take the GRE exam. Additionally, he will develop a research project that he began into one of my classes into a solid writing sample that he will use as he plans to attend PhD programs in sociology. I am also helping this student to navigate the graduate school application process, and I will write a recommendation for the student.

As a group, we will also be reading two books together and meet at least three times as a collective to discuss them. Each student will then choose a book on their own and write a book review about it. I will mentor the students on how to write a book review, and by the end of the summer each student will have submitted their unique book review to an academic journal in a relevant discipline. As the first person to earn a PhD in my family, I did not understand the importance of publishing in graduate school and this will help these two students add lines to their CV—a particularly desirable attribute for newly minted PhDs given the current state of the academic job market.

Potential Impact: Demonstrated Importance of Individual-Focused Mentorship for Non-Traditional Students

Qualitative studies have shown that the intensive and directed mentorship of Latinos, a population that lags behind all other racial and ethnic groups in terms of educational attainment and wages, significantly increases success in careers and educational endeavors, as well as helps to sustain the psychological well-being for the student throughout their studies (Valentin et al., 2016). More generally, a two decade-long study of mentor and protégé relationships found that engaged protégé’s experienced “increased academic and professional satisfaction and success” as a result of the mentorship relationship (Huwe & Johnson, 2003, p. 42). Research asserts that mentorship entails advising, nurturing, and coaching students (Valentin et al, 2016, 35), and is particularly useful to students when the approach is catered to promote the individual growth of the mentee (Zalaquett & Lopez, 2006, 342).

Some scholarship contends that there are three distinct types of mentors: formal mentors (provided by an institution), informal mentors (provided without institutional support, like a priest), and family mentors (Valentin et al., 2016, p. 28). Other scholars have intervened in this literature arguing that successful mentorship often contains an element of friendship and individual-focused mentorship that could disrupt the borders between teacher and student. For example, Sassi and Thomas (2012) discuss a methodological approach to mentorship as a “mobius of friendship and mentorship” that garners success through a nurtured relationship between mentor and protégé (830). This project seeks institutional support for formal mentorship that responds to this call for individual focused mentorship approaches. Looking towards the future, my students will benefit the prestige of Miami University as my two mentees develop into distinguished scholars.

Educational studies suggest that there are two types of interrelated mentorship: career support and psychosocial support (Kram, 1988). Career support provides advice specific to the field of study, and psychosocial support includes “encouragement, listening, and friendliness of a mentor” (Gonzalez-Figueroa & Young, 2005, p. 215); Sassi and Thomas (2012) would liken the later to “friendship.” Since I have already taught my graduate student in an independent study, and my undergraduate student in two of my classes, we already have each developed a good rapport that includes mutually beneficial relationships of both career support and psychosocial support. Moreover, research indicates that mentorship is most successful with protégés demonstrated good work is reciprocated with more mentorship (Huwe & Johnson, 2003, p. 47); the approval of this grant proposal would fund such a dynamic of reciprocity.

My proposed intensive student writing summer mentorship program seeks to offer carefully tailored mentorships that aligns with student interest, as well as guides these first generation US college students as they are and are preparing to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of graduate school in the United States. Furthermore, I will introduce them to best practices, like our exercise on writing book proposals, that will help them succeed in graduate school and as critical scholars. We will be developing long writing projects throughout the summer months that, for my graduate student, will familiarize her with the academic publication process. Furthermore, my review of existing literature suggests that few studies link the importance of mentorship to specifically non-traditional students who are non-citizen Latinos or former military personnal. Although community accountability has long been a tenet of Latino Studies classrooms (Flores, 1997), I was not able to find a study that specifically looks at best practices for developing community-engaged pedagogy for Latino Studies in the rural and historically white Midwest. Our essay will begin to fill this gap in the literature. For my undergrad, I will mentor him as he develops a writing sample for his PhD applications. I will also continue to mentor him throughout this process as he applies and is accepted into graduate programs.

It should be noted that both students are interested in applying Latino Studies methods and literature to their respective disciplines: sociology and educational leadership. All three of my degrees are the result of significant research and writing about Latinos from within American Culture/ Studies Departments that define Latino Studies and other Ethnic Studies programs as a part of American Culture/ Studies; I also hold an additional graduate certificate in Latino Studies. As the only expert in Latino Studies at Miami University, I am uniquely positioned to fill this much needed role for these future academics as their potential to take courses in the field is extremely limited. I am committed to these individuals, but the amount of courses and independent study classes that each individual can take with me are limited and they are among a group of five other students who have approached me for targeted research assistance. For example, although this is my fourth semester at Miami, I have done three independent studies with students in Latino Studies. This summer mentorship experience would allow me to give these two committed students more of my time and allow me to mentor a different undergraduate student in another independent study on undocumented Latino migration in rural Ohio in Fall 2016.

Project Plan: Potential Scholarly and Professional Impact of Student Writing

As stated above, there are three types of writing that will be produced as a part of this summer mentorship project. My students will be encouraged to reach out to the Howe Writing Center for any additional writing advice while they develop these projects. (1) The book reviews produced as a part of this intensive summer writing mentorship by both students will potentially be read by many academics. It will also give my students experience at synthesizing complex arguments, and locating scholarly contributions. (2) The undergraduate student’s entrance essay to graduate school will help my student pursue a dream of becoming a university professor. I will also assist this student, as he is a first generation college student, as he begins to search for graduate schools that will best meet his needs. (3) The graduate student and myself will produce an article intended for peer-review together. Through our co-written essay, this project has the potential to shape the way that some members in higher education conceptualize community engaged and responsible pedagogy. Throughout this joint writing process, we will contact the How Writing Center for any questions that we encounter as a part of the writing process. Although this project seeks to mentor two students, each students’ individual writing tasks are designed to have a broad reaching impact. The co-authored piece on pedagogy will reflect on the importance of faculty-graduate student communication and collaboration at insuring the success of non-traditional students in PhD programs. Moreover, the endeavors of this project further prove Miami’s unique commitment to teaching and individual student development.

Scholarly Contribution/Context of Co-Authored Essay

On July 29, 2014 Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff Richard K. Jones sent a letter to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs José Antonio Meade Kuribrena. This letter reads like an invoice demanding that he be paid $900,000 by the Mexican government for “dealing with your criminals.” Sheriff Jones wrote a similar letter in 2010, has made trips to the U.S.-Mexican Border, and has appeared on conservative news outlets, such as Fox News, as a hardliner on immigration in America’s heartland. In July 27, 2010 while being interviewed by Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, Sheriff Jones told Van Susteren that in part because of Secure Communities, he was able to deport undocumented people at a rate of “roughly 30 a week from all over the world.” He also tells Van Susteren “our population in our county is 350,000.” Under the leadership of Sheriff Jones and our current House Representative-elect Republican Speaker of the house John Boehner, the largely rural Butler County, where I teach in the Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies Program, is also a Secure Community. Our co-authored paper will explore the question: For instructors of classes on Latino racialization and immigration, how does one develop a responsible community based learning course from within a community, like Butler County, when the state perpetuates a dynamic of fear and social death (Cacho, 2012)?

Specifically, we are invested in working through some key pedagogical and ethical questions that we encounter at the intersection of local politics, the classroom, and developing a responsible community-based pedagogy for Latino Studies. Margaret M. Commins’ (2013) discussion of how courses that discuss immigration are taught in the US southeast suggests that courses on US immigration, like many Latino related courses, are most effective at inspiring student learning when they engage with “interdisciplinary experiential learning.” This essay will explore the ethical and pedagogical challenges and opportunities for instructors at the graduate and contingent levels who teach college level Latino Studies and US immigration courses in the rural and sometimes conservative Midwest.

Unlike the more established Chicano Studies, Raza Studies, and Latina/o Studies programs and departments of the U.S. West Coast, and Puerto Rican and Latino Studies programs and departments of the U.S. East Coast, Latino Studies emerges on many Midwestern college campuses later and sometimes within Global Studies, Latin American Studies, and Spanish Departments. The positioning of Latino Studies within such programs raises important questions about the place and future of the field in the academy. For scholars of Latino Studies within the U.S. Midwest who teach classes on immigration, such a dynamic demands innovative pedagogical approaches that combine classroom teaching with responsible and ethically organized experiential learning that assert the importance of the local within the global or transnational. We will discuss various approaches and initiatives that we have developed to address such concerns.

Latino Studies has its institutionalized academic origins in the Puerto Rican and Chicano Studies programs and movements in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Frances R. Aparicio (2003) notes that in the Midwest context, Latino Studies programs have always been more “Pan-Latino,” a gesture that is representative of the comparatively more diverse demographic histories of the region (6). I can attest that Latino Studies courses at Miami embody a similar framework. In 1997, Juan Flores wrote about the present and futures of such programs, as well as the evolving discipline of Latino Studies. At the time of Flores’ writing, students at elite colleges, such as Columbia University and Williams College, my undergraduate institution, were mobilizing to have a space and a place for Latino Studies in their institutions at the same time that budget crises and the consolidation of resources were causing the restructuring and downsizing of similar departments and programs at public universities. Flores writes that, especially given attacks on affirmative action:

Latino Studies needs to be understood as a social movement, as an extension within the academy of the movements against racism and on the behalf of immigrant rights afoot in the wider society

I would like to extend his arguments to attacks on immigrants through what Jonathan Xavier Inda and Julia A. Dowling (2013), as well as Jonathon Simon (1997, 2007), term the “governing of immigration through crime.” This post-9/11 dynamic of criminalizing the very existence of undocumented people, so-called “illegals,” is embodied in legislation, such as the Sensenbrenner Bill, against which Latinas/os throughout the nation mobilized against during the May 2006 immigration protests (Aparicio, 2010; Dewitt. et al., 2014). Exacerbated through three 1996 Clinton Administration immigration acts, one of which created the category of “aggravated felony” for immigrants, we have seen a more than 50% increase in Latino incarceration at the federal level within the past decade. The significant majority for immigration related convictions.

Whether on the US/Mexico border or in Butler County, there is often the assumption that some Latin American origin individuals are “illegal” till proven otherwise. As Nicholas De Genova (2004) contends, discourses of “illegality” in the US context function as code words for “Mexicanness” linked to a racialized identity of “brownness.” De Genova warns us that this dynamic helps to script the US/Mexico border zone as a “theatre of an enforcement “crisis” (De Genova, 2004, 171). Flores also asserts that la frontera/ the border is the founding metaphor for Latino Studies (1997, 215). However, with the shift of immigrant policing from the border and into the interior with various draconian state-level immigration acts the “theatre of enforcement “crisis””, as evidence by Sheriff Jones’ invoices to Mexico, is also in the Midwest and specifically Butler County. When writing about the criminalization of migrants in the United States, Inda and Dowling (2013) take up this metaphor in their assertion that post-9/11 the border functions as a type of “mobile technology” exercised in part through the national and trans-spatial context of federal, state and local immigration control measures, such as Memoranda Agreements (also known as 287(g) programs) and Secure Communities. (Memoranda Agreements are when members of a local police force are trained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and function as immigration officers. Secure Communities is system where communities elect to share biometric data (fingerprints) of migrants with ICE. Both of these programs are active in Butler County.) In other words, with intensive interior policing the border-zone has been “deterriorialized” (Inda and Dowling, 2013) and is the Midwest. This co-authored piece will enter into this discussion of the placement and future of Latino Studies at a different historical moment, and from a different geographical register than that addressed in scholarship about teaching about immigration and Latino Studies: the contemporary rural Midwest during an era of interior border policing.


Graduate Student Objectives and Plan
  • From May-August, we will develop, write, and submit for publication a co-written essay (described above) on developing a responsible community engaged and focused pedagogy for Latino Studies classrooms.
Undergraduate Student Objectives and Plan
  • From May-August, I will help this student further research and develop a short (6 page) research paper.
  • Student will enroll in an independent study course to also get course credit for his writing and research.
Group Objectives and Plan
  • We will meet the first week of June and July to discuss two recent monograph-length publications in the fields of American ethnic studies, sociology, education and criminology. The two books are:
    • Martha D. Escobar. 2016. Captivity Beyond Prisons: Criminalization Experiences of Latina (Im)migrants. Austin: University of Texas Press.
    • Gina Pérez. 2015. Citizen, Student Soldier: Latina/o Youth, JROTC, and the American Dream. New York: New York University Press.
  • After we read these books together, each student must choose a recent monograph in their field and write a book review about it. As a model, I will write book reviews of our two jointly read books.
Assessment Strategy

Assessment is based on a demonstrated improvement on student writing, and particularly the development of writing at the graduate and professional level. Additionally, our success will be demonstrated in our record of publication and admittance to graduate programs.


(originally presented as table; reformatted for web)

  • $100: Meeting Costs (travel, potential minor costs like food, coffee)
  • $100: Books and Materials
  • $1800: Small stipend for myself for the development of projects, mentoring, and time
  • $2000: Total Anticipated Cost


Aparicio, F. R. (2010). Competing narratives on the March (pp. 65-78). In A. Pallares & N. Florez-González (Eds.), Marcha. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

-----. (2003). Latino Cultural Studies (pp. 3-31). In J. Poblete (Ed.), Critical Latin American and Latino Studies. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2013). Racism without racists. New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield.

Cabán, P. (1998). The new synthesis of Latin American and Latino studies (pp. 195-275). In F. Bonilla, E. Meléndez, R. Morales, & M. de los Angeles Torres (Eds.), Borderless borders: US Latinos, Latin Americans, and the paradox of interdependence. Philadelphia, PN: Temple University Press.

Chomsky, N. (2014). Nome Chomsky: Corporate business models are hurting American universities. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2014/10/10/noam_chomsky_corporate_business_models_are_hurting_american_universities_partner/

Cacho, L. M. (2012). Social death: Racialized rightlessness and the criminalization of the unprotected. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Chavez, L. R. (2008). The Latino threat. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.

Comins, M. M. (2013). Teaching immigration: Informing and evaluating the debate. Norteameérica, 8, 173-190.

De Genova, N. (2004). The legal production of Mexican/Migrant "illegality." Latino Studies, (4), 160-185.

Flores, J. (1997). Latino studies: New contexts, new concepts. Harvard Educational Review, 67(2).

Gámez, J. L. S. (2012). Mi Reina: Latino landscapes in Queens City (Charlotte, N.C.) (pp. 274-283). In W. Graves & H. Smith (Eds.), Charlotte, NC: The Global Evolution of a New South City. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Gómez Peña, G. (1996). The new world border: Prophesies, poems & loqueras for the end of the century. San Francisco, CA: City Lights.

Gonzalez-Figueroa, E., & Young, A. M. (2005). Ethnic identity and mentoring among Latinas in professional roles. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 11(3), 213-226.

Huwe, J. M., & Johnson, W. B. (2003). On being an excellent protégé. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 17(3), 41-57.

Inda, J. X., & Dowling, J. (2013). Introduction: Governing migrant illegality (pp. 1-36). In J. A. Dowling (Ed.), Governing immigration through crime: A reader. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.

Kram, K. (1988). Mentoring relationships at work. Lanham, MD: United Press of America.

Millard, A. V., & Chapa, J. (2004). Apple pie and enchiladas: Latino newcomers in the Rural Midwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Sassi, K., & Thomas, E. E. (2012). The mobius of friendship and mentorship as methodological approaches to qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry,
 18(10), 830–842.

Valentin, M. A., Valentin, C., Lincoln, Y., & Gonzalez, E. (2016). The importance of mentorship: Reflections of the life experiences and consejos from successful Latino/a’s: A phenomenological study. National Forum of Applied Education Research Journal, 29(1), 34-45.

Vargas, Z. (1999). Proletarians of the North: A history of Mexican industrial workers in Detroit and the Midwest, 1917-1933. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Zalaquett, C. P., & Lopez, A. D. (2006). Learning from the stories of successful undergraduate Latina/Latino students: The importance of mentoring. Mentoring and Tutoring, 14(3), 337-353.