Julianna Joss, Co-Founder of Freedom at Emory University

Meet Julianna Joss, one of the co-founders (with Andy Kim) of Freedom at Emory University!!!

Her Campus Emory (HCE): What is Freedom at Emory University?

Julianna Joss (JJ): Freedom at Emory is a coalition of students, faculty, and alumni whose purpose is to advocate for the educational rights of undocumented students.  In addition, we aim to spread general awareness and foster discussion in the greater Emory community regarding this pertinent issue.


HCE: What inspired the development of Freedom at Emory University?

JJ: During my freshman year (Fall 2013), I met Laura Emiko Soltis, who is now the Executive Director of Freedom University, which is a freedom school that provides college-level courses and college admission counseling to undocumented students.  She opened my eyes to the fact that the state of Georgia has the most discriminatory policies against undocumented students in the nation.  Undocumented students are banned from applying to the top five public colleges and universities.  In addition, they are barred from receiving in-state tuition from any public college or university.  This essentially makes it impossible for undocumented students to attend college in Georgia, which is a blatant injustice because education is a human right.  Over the summer (2014), as part of the Scholarship and Service program, I visited Stewart Detention Center, which is one of the largest detention centers for undocumented people in the nation.  Seeing the kind of adversity that face the undocumented only infuriated me further regarding the state of immigration policy in Georgia and beyond.  A mutual friend introduced me to Andy Kim, who is a current senior in the college, who had been advocating for undocumented students since his freshman year.  Together, we decided we wanted to start an initiative that we named Freedom at Emory.


HCE: Are there any recent achievements of Freedom at Emory University?

JJ: For the entire fall semester, Freedom at Emory worked on mobilizing student organization, faculty, and alumni allies that supported ending discrimination against undocumented students at Emory.  We hosted a panel and an allies photo shoot to spread awareness.  Then over winter break, our team put together a proposal to increase access for undocumented students at Emory.  Members of the Freedom at Emory team, as well as undocumented students at Freedom University have met with President Wagner twice.  We are happy to say that he is behind us in making comprehensive changes for undocumented students at Emory, from increasing financial assistance to improving our cultural attitudes and support for undocumented students.  While the details are not ironed out quite yet, we are on our way in the process of creating an undocumented student-inclusive environment here at Emory and hopefully, you will see these changes happening extremely soon.


HCE: What do you enjoy most about being a part of Freedom at Emory University?

JJ: Both the Emory students that are members of our Freedom at Emory team and the Freedom University undocumented students are absolutely incredible people to work with on this initiative.  They are authentically passionate and possess endless hard work and bravery in all our endeavors.  They are innovative and thoughtful and I am confident individuals like them, both the undocumented students and documented allies, will make huge contributions to society now and in the future.  It is truly inspiring to work with such talented, selfless individuals who care deeply about justice for undocumented students. 


HCE: How can Emory students get involved?

JJ: We are currently in the application process for new members of our Freedom at Emory steering committee, so we seek applicants for our team in the Spring.  However, we encourage all Emory students to seek involvement through our monthly General Body Meetings that involve stimulating discussions and interesting guest speakers.  We will continue to host panels, debates, and other activities and we would love as many Emory students as possible to participate in these events.  But on the most basic level, the best thing that Emory students can do is learn more about this topic and discuss this with their peers.  Issues in regards to immigration tend to alienate people due to their controversial, complex nature and thus, we fail to discuss them.  Therefore, too many people are unaware of the current state of discrimination in Georgia.  I firmly believe that discussion leads to critical thought and this will foster a culture where undocumented students are welcomed and appreciated here at Emory.