Roberto Gonzales has been promoted from assistant professor to full professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gonzales originally joined the faculty in 2013 and has since been at the forefront of research on the factors that promote and impede immigrant and undocumented students in the United States.
“Roberto Gonzales has established himself as one of the leading experts on undocumented youth in this country,” said Dean James Ryan. “His award-winning book, Lives in Limbo, has been rightly hailed by both the media and academia; it has been taught by teachers in classrooms around the country; and it has helped to shape and inform the debate on educational policies and practices related to immigrant students. The impact, rigor, quality, and quantity of Roberto’s research are remarkable, and I am delighted to welcome him to the ranks of HGSE’s senior faculty.”
Gonzales’ new study will seek to understand how educators across the United States are handling discussions of immigration in their classrooms, schools, and communities, and how they are responding to recent discourse and policy measures.
“Being at HGSE has provided me an amazing platform for my work, and the opportunity to share it with elected officials, school leaders, and community members,” said Gonzales. “Since I study immigration, the ability to contribute to and inform the public debate means a lot to me at this particular moment and I’m really looking forward to learning more about how some of these issues are playing out across diverse contexts.”
The research for Lives in Limbo is considered the most comprehensive study on undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Additionally, Gonzales’ study of the impact of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on students and their potential for academic and career success has found that DACA participants see a wide range of benefits, including pathways back to education and better employment opportunities.
“Considering I started my education in Head Start and neither of my parents attended college, being named professor of education is a huge accomplishment for me — one of which I am extremely proud,” said Gonzales. “But I also understand what it might mean to many of our students who may have also been the first in their family to go to college or who faced adversity at some time in their lives. I take very seriously the opportunity to be a role model and to pave the way for others.”
Gonzales has also created an informal workshop at the Ed School called REMI (for those interested in issues of Race, Ethnicity, Migration, and Inequality), a space where students can work on paper ideas, fellowship proposals, conference presentations, and even job talks. It has had a beneficial impact on members of the group academically, and also in the tight-knit community it has created within the school.
“Personally, I promised myself that when I got tenure I would take guitar lessons — I used to play the air guitar as a teenager, but I don’t think that counts! Beyond that, I really look forward to putting down roots in the area, now that I know I’ll be here for many years to come,” said Gonzales. “While both my wife and I are from the Southwest, our son is becoming a New Englander, accent and all. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the wide circle of mentors, teachers, coaches, colleagues, former and current students, friends, and family members, especially my wife. It is a true privilege to be at HGSE carrying out the work I love. I would not be here without the support and encouragement of so many people over the years."