Bridge to the Faculty scholar wins prestigious thesis award

Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez, postdoctoral researcher, UIC Department of History.

Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez is a socio-legal historian of child migration and an academic-activist who joined the University of Illinois at Chicago as Bridge to the Faculty postdoctoral research associate and is part of its 2021 cohort.

She earned a doctorate in history from Columbia University, where her research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, American Historical Association, American Society for Legal History, and Immigration and Ethnic History Society, among others.

Columbia University recently awarded him the prestigious 2022 award Bancroft Thesis Fellowship. Since 1963, the honor has been awarded to no more than two recipients each year to recognize the excellence of their doctoral dissertations relating to American history, diplomacy, or international relations.

The UIC Bridge to the Faculty program aims to attract underrepresented postdoctoral scholars to UIC who can achieve a direct transition to a tenure-track junior faculty position after two years.

Padilla-Rodriguez is the daughter of former undocumented Mexican immigrants. She was appointed to the history department of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Padilla-Rodríguez recently spoke at UIC Today about the award, his work and the Bridge to the Faculty program.

What does it mean to you to receive the award?

To be shortlisted for the Bancroft Dissertation Prize 2022 is an incredible honour. I feel very humbled and validated that a thesis that attempts to consider very seriously and with integrity the voices, ideas and action of young migrants is recognized with such a distinguished award. What is particularly significant for me is that Professor Mae Ngai, the mentor who has most nurtured my scholarly capacity and supported my research on migrant children, is also awarded a Bancroft Prize this year.

Now that I am working on revising my dissertation into a book manuscript here at UIC, the award motivates me even more to bring my research to a wider audience. I am confident that the Prize’s generous Publications Grant Fund will help me achieve this goal, which means a lot to me. I would also like to add that I am extremely grateful to the rest of my thesis committee, including Karl Jacoby, Nara Milanich, Pablo Piccato and George J. Sánchez for nominating me for this award. My committee members provided me with the intellectual feedback and emotional support that undoubtedly facilitated this achievement.

What is your dissertation about?

I wrote a thesis on the social and legal history of the migration of Latinx children to and within the United States between 1937 and 1986. It examined the multitude of violations of the rights of Mexican migrant minors and Central America in the middle and end of the 20th century. Sifting through neglected and geographically disparate archival collections across the country, I have carefully traced how U.S. officials have used law, politics, and the concept of “alienation” to deny frontier youth rights that were – and continue to be – crucial to childhood exercise.

These rights included protection from all of the following: labor exploitation, deprivation of education, prolonged incarceration, family separation and violence. I demonstrated how law and “alienation” nullify migrant minors’ access not only to childhood rights, but to childhood itself. My thesis has also helped me show that current immigration policies that rely on injury to a child or the well-being of the family are not aberrations or recent inventions, but part of a much larger history. longest period of child migration.

Can you share some information about yourself that has informed your work?

My work, both inside and outside of academia, is rooted in the ethical and moral commitments to immigrant communities that I developed as the daughter of former undocumented Mexican immigrants. My research is the culmination of many intellectual and social exchanges between myself, my mixed-status family members, and the immigrant communities I grew up with.

My observations of my mixed-status family and my conversations with my single immigrant mother, aunts and uncles constitute my very first education on the subjects of American immigration and border enforcement. Education is at the forefront of all my writing, research and advocacy. I also brought these insights with me when I conducted policy research on child and family migration for the US federal government and nonprofit organizations in the United States and Mexico. All of my ideas were ultimately conceived in collaboration with the immigrants I had the great privilege of learning from.

As a member of Bridge to the Faculty, can you say how the program serves you and your future?

The Bridge to the Faculty program supports my personal and professional growth in two significant ways. First, by giving me the time and resources to focus on my research and writing for two years, the program ensures that I can start my career as a junior researcher as strongly as possible in preparation for my appointment. leading to permanence. The Bridge to the Faculty program is therefore an important material investment in my professional future.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the structured mentorship support and accountability mechanisms facilitated by the Bridge to the Faculty program have already been transformative for me. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the amount of individual support provided to me by my UIC mentors such as Amalia Pallares, Angela Walden, Elizabeth Todd-Breland and Adam Goodman. As a first-generation college graduate and the first person in my family to earn a PhD, I benefit from this culturally sensitive mentorship. This mentorship is crucial for me in order to have a successful academic career.

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