Meet Border Immersion Coordinator Mikaela Cole

Immigration and border policy is not something that can be ignored. In 2015 there were about 12.1 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S. These are people who work, send their children to school, and contribute to a country that calls them illegal. Sophomore Mikaela Cole recognized this need to learn and raise awareness about border issues. Mikaela is one of UP's Border Immersion coordinators.  As one of the students attending the immersion I'm very glad to have gotten the opportunity to learn more about my coordinator and new friend Mikaela! 

1. What is the Border Immersion?

The Border Immersion is a program through the Moreau Center on campus. We will be spending a week of our spring break in Tucson, Arizona at the United States/Mexico border. We will be learning about immigration rights, immigration issues, human rights, and policy. Check out the Border Immersion's website here!

2. How did you become the Border Immersion co-cordinator?

I was looking for a campus job and I saw that they needed an immersion coordinator. It seemed like a great opportunity!

3. What are your responsibilities as co-cordinator?

I co-cordinate with another student named Noah Webster. We have a lot of responsibilities ranging from buying the plane tickets to making the itinerary. We communicate with BorderLinks to make sure we have activities to do and a place to stay. We are responsible for managing the budget, doing fundraising, and conducting interviews. And LOTS of emailing. 

4. Why did you want to coordinate the Border Immersion specifically?

I'm really interested in learning more about border politics. I'm an Education Major and I have a lot of students who immigrated here. I wanted to know more about what they have gone through. One of my old students was a refugee from Somalia, another girl came here from Nairobi. I'm also a History Major with a specific focus on Latin-American history. So I thought this immersion would help me explore my interests. 

5. Why is Latin-American history your favorite?

I find it really interesting. I feel like often times people will focus on World War 2 or colonialism. I like Latin American history because it is different. There is a lot that people don't know about it, especially how the United States was involved. 

6. Do you study Spanish?

Not at the university. I want to take some summer classes at Portland Community College. I do really want to learn, but my brain isn't really wired for learning languages. After graduation I want to join the Peace Corps and learn through total immersion. 

7. What do you want to do after your time at UP?

I want to start out in the Peace Corps and then I want to be a teacher. 

8. How would you address diversity issues and bullying as a future teacher?

I think the best thing to do is to start early and celebrate differences. Integrating other cultures in a positive way and allowing students to share about their cultures would be two great ways to help the students be empathetic and understand each others' differences. 

9. How would you use your time at the border to help raise awareness as a teacher?

I want to bring back my stories and my experiences. I think you take your teachers a lot more seriously if they have actually experienced something rather than just read about it. My seventh grade students are starting their first research papers. A lot of them are writing about different issues around immigration and I want to be able to share what I've learned from the immersion. 

10. Is there a specific border issue you want to focus on?

I want to try to tackle stereotypes and understand what my students experience. I want to learn the truth about what it is like to immigrate. When we're down there I'm interested in seeing every different perspective. 

11. What sort of activities will you be doing over the course of the Immersion?

We will most likely get to interact with people who have immigrated, border patrol, and some judges from immigration courts. 

12. What is BorderLinks?

They are our partner program. They take groups who are interested in learning about immigration issues and connect them with immigration organizations like border patrol. They run seminars and host groups during their visits. They do it all and they do it in a way that raises awareness and understanding. Read more about BorderLinks here!

13. How would you spread the word about the Border Immersion?

We're starting with fixing the tri-fold that is on display during the Academic Fair in September. I think more posters around campus and an information session would be helpful. Also I think all students should know that they can get great scholarships to help pay to participate.  

14. What all do you do on campus?

Aside from the Border Immersion, I'm a DJ for KDUP. My friend Jess and I have a show called "Fresh Beets", it's every Thursday from 9 PM to 10 PM (check them out here!). I also help coordinate events for UP's Gay Straight Alliance Club. 

15. How do manage your stress?

I'm trying out meditation. Also my friend Jess says that my stress food is ice cream. Usually I have a lot of things going on, it's not that what I have to do is all that stressful. I just try to stay calm and schedule time for fun things. I like going to the basketball games and Pilots After Dark events. 

16. What's the one thing you would want everyone to know about the Border Immersion and border politics?

DON'T VOTE TRUMP. Also I want people to know that border politics affects the lives of a lot of people. There are so many people in your school and your community that are personally affected. I want for our neighbors, classmates, and friends to not have to live in fear.