Community Scholars Program

The Community Scholars Program was launched in 1991 to bring together community leaders and UCLA students to study pressing policy issues in Los Angeles. Using applied research, participants develop a product that aims to influence local policy. In the past, students have worked on projects related to banking, immigration, housing, health in South Los Angeles, and green jobs. Each Community Scholars cohort addresses an important policy challenge and formulates a response that furthers a social justice agenda. 

The Community Scholars program is open to undergraduate and graduate students through UCLA Labor Studies housed in the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and is co-sponsored by the UCLA Labor Center

2021 Community Scholars: Cross-Border Solidarity for Transborder Migrant Justice

The 2021 Community Scholars Program centers the narratives of Black, Indigenous, and Trans/Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) migrants and activists defending the rights of asylees, refugees, and workers.

The goal of the 2021 Community Scholars Program is to strengthen the leadership of TGNC, Black, and Indigenous activists and community organizers demanding justice at the border city of Tijuana and of the people seeking asylum across the migrant stream. 

To do so, program participants will learn and build upon the legacies of cross-border solidarity efforts led by stigmatized groups. Specifically, radicalized, gendered, and migrant worker-centered collectives challenging U.S. and Mexican border policies and global economic inequality will work with UCLA students to complete final projects that enhance cross border collaboration and support migrants, asylees, and refugees .

Program Structure 

Each week, program participants meet virtually with members of binational civil society, community leaders, and diverse stakeholders, to share a dialogue with multi-level experts and practitioners championing efforts for transborder migrant justice in the U.S.-Mexico border.

Using community-engaged participatory research methods, program participants will learn from community champions, leaders, and experts to identify key research and policy priorities, collect and interpret data, and articulate migrant-informed solutions and frameworks to sustain community leadership and solidarity across borders.

  • Winter 2021 Quarter (January-March): Program participants will co-design participatory action research projects. Program participants engage in collective analysis of the issues facing transborder migrants and cross-border solidarity efforts, identify research questions or key issues to address, learn relevant academic and practitioner frameworks to issues, and engage in data collection. Program participants will learn to incorporate research methods to elevate the voices, agency and autonomy of vulnerable working communities in mobility impacted by forced migration and social inequity in all research activities.
  • Spring 2021 Quarter (March-June): Community Scholars will then examine and propose research, policy, and infrastructure innovations along with Black, Indigenous, and TGNC civil society actors responding to the human rights crisis facing global migrants in Baja California [Norte], the Mexican border state with California. By the end of the second quarter in June, all meetings and course content and ephemera, such as, blog posts, virtual discussions, workshops, teach-ins, webinars, (virtual) field trips, guest-lectures, discussions, writings, and assignments will build towards key community-based projects addressing labor conditions of working migrant communities and demands, cross-border solidarity, and transborder migrant justice and resistance.

This year’s program will address the following questions:

  • What is the political economy that law is producing at the Mexican border?
  • What are the racialized and gendered aspects of this unequal structure?
  • How are current laws and policies impacting the social and economic reality at the border?
  • What is the relationship between institutions of power and the legal systems?
  • How are the relations of people in power and oppressed people playing-out at the legal dimensions at the border?

How has COVID-19 impacted facilitation of the 2021 Community Scholars Program? 

Community Scholars normally meet in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles at the UCLA Labor Center. Due to the COVID-19, this important feature of the community engaged model is not offered this year. However, the virtual modality has allowed activists to participate who are working as far south as Guatemala, throughout Mexico, and across the United States. 

Program inquiries

Kendy Rivera Cárdenas, PhD., Instructor,

Saul Sarabia, J.D., Instructor,

Course Information

M190C- Community Engaged Research in Practice: Community Scholars, learn more here.

The 2021 Community Scholars program is being coordinated in partnership between the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the Labor Center, the Cesar E. Chavez Dept. of Chicana/o and Central American Studies, and the Center for Community Learning.

2021-2022 Community Scholars Program

The 2021-2022 Community Scholars course will focus on the topic of  “Labor and Decarceration: Building a Just Transition towards the Future of Work California” will be co-sponsored by the UCLA Dept. of African American Studies and the Center for Community Learning. Undergraduates interested in next year’s course must apply to the Astin Scholars Program at the UCLA Center for Community Learning during the Spring 2021. Graduate students can apply during Fall 2021, and can check this page at the beginning of Fall quarter for an application link.

Information coming soon. 

Previous Community Scholars Projects

Community Scholars Related Links