Muñiz Receives Soros Fellowship for Children of Immigrants

Muñiz Receives Soros Fellowship for Children of Immigrants

Julissa MunizJulissa Muñiz

School of Education and Social Policy doctoral student Julissa Muñiz was one of two Northwestern University students awarded The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a graduate school fellowship for outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants in the United States.  

Selected from 1,775 applicants, the 2018 fellows were chosen for their potential to make significant contributions to U.S. society, culture or their respective academic field. Each will receive up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate school studies. 

For both Muñiz, who is pursuing her PhD in human development and social policy, and Benjamin Chou, a JD/MBA student, the experiences of being the child of immigrants have inspired a commitment to make the American dream more accessible. 

Born in San Diego to Mexican immigrant parents, Muñiz lived in Tijuana, Mexico, the latter half of her childhood, crossing the border daily to attend school in the border town of San Ysidro, California. 

Muñiz was the first in her nuclear and extended family to graduate from high school. While neither of her parents graduated from high school, they instilled in Muñiz a deep love for reading, learning, and justice.  

In 2007 at the age of 16, Muñiz gave birth to her daughter, Amaris. She was the first teenage mother to return to her high school. 

Two years later, she became the first student at her high school to ever be accepted to the University of California, Berkeley. 

“I can say I have been very blessed,” said Muñiz, who started high school in the affluent city of Oceanside, California and graduated from high school in the impoverished border town. “I always had the confidence to succeed because I was never told otherwise. In both the well-resourced school in Oceanside and the school I attended in San Ysidro, I had wonderful teachers and principals who supported me without ever making me feel less capable as an underprivileged student.” 

While at Berkeley, Muñiz volunteered at two adult prisons and a youth guidance center where she encountered numerous incarcerated men, women and youth-serving life, or indeterminate sentences, for crimes committed while adolescents. Their narratives and experiences continue to inspire her work as an educator, advocate and emerging scholar. 

After completing her undergraduate studies, Muñiz and Amaris moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and earned her EdM. 

Muñiz is interested in learning environments in carceral spaces as they are experienced by incarcerated youths. 

“No child should be incarcerated but if they are incarcerated we should give them access to education,” she said.   

At Northwestern, Muñiz founded the first graduate student organization for Latinx students, Comunidad Latinx, to promote campus-wide efforts to improve the recruitment and retention of Latinx students, faculty and staff at Northwestern while creating a sense of “comunidad,” or community.   

The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans is a graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants.  

The 2018 Fellows are all the children of immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, green card holders or naturalized citizens. 

In addition to receiving up to $90,000 in funding for the graduate program of their choice, the new Fellows join the prestigious community of recipients from past years, which also includes individuals such as Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist of artificial intelligence and machine learning at GoogleCloud; composer Paola Prestini; award-winning writer Kao Kalia Yang, and nearly 600 other New American leaders.

Read the full story. 


By Erin Karter
Last Modified: 4/18/18