Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Saltanat Liebert, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Seth Sykes, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Anne Stratton, J.D.


Immigration is arguably among the most divisive global and national issues at present. In the U.S., undocumented persons (the DREAMers) who arrived to the U.S. as children have been the central focus of legislation and debate. As of 2013, the undocumented population has increased from less than a million in 1980, then reaching 12.2 million in 2006, to an estimated population of 11.3 million (Passel, Cohn, Krogstand, & Gonzalez-Barerra, 2014) just a few short years ago. For the numerous undocumented students who have excelled academically and socially, and make positive contributions to their communities, the goal of obtaining a college degree is naturally the next step after high school. While undocumented students face intractable challenges in the areas of residency/citizenship, the college admission process, and financing their education, many still find their way on college campuses seeking degree completion.

Academic advisors are uniquely positioned to support the persistence and graduation of students, especially undocumented students. Therefore, this research examined perspectives and behaviors of advisors concerning their interactions with undocumented students in public universities utilizing the framework of Michael Lipsky’s (1980) understanding of street-level bureaucracy to determine the discretionary behaviors exercised by academic advisors who advise undocumented students. Study participants included college advisors located in the middle southern and western regions of the United States, where undocumented populations are highest.

A qualitative methodology with a case study research design was used in this phenomenological guided research to determine two major study findings: (a) academic advisors are exercising discretionary behavior in advising undocumented students and general population students and (b) the academic advising needs of undocumented students differ from other students. This study has contributed to public administration and higher education advising literature by providing insight into how advisors understand their roles, implement policy, and participate in divergence to meet the needs of students.


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