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Border Studies

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Academics in Action


The Border Studies Program combines rigorous academic study, practical on-site learning, travel seminars and structured reflection in a semester that engages students in some of today’s most urgent social, economic, and ecological matters. A semester with the Border Studies Program facilitates the examination of issues related to migration, human rights, globalization, food systems, and the environment. Peers, scholars, farmers, indigenous peoples, state authorities, migrants and activists in both Mexico and the U.S. contribute to the learning process. This integrated experience challenges students to be more thoughtful and intentional about their participation in creating a just and sustainable world.

Home2Based in Tucson, the Border Studies Program is situated in a complex and critical geographic bioregion, offering unique opportunities for studying social and ecological issues in local, regional, and international contexts. Known for intense activism around immigrant rights and borderlands militarization, Tucson overflows with environmental organizations working on both sides of the border to protect the binational ecosystem and to seek sustainable living models in the arid lands of Sonora, Arizona, and beyond.

Full Size RenderExtensive travel seminars and excursions along both sides of the border and the interior of Mexico integrate two or more of the courses, enhancing students academic and personal experience by providing students with a more holistic understanding of the borderlands and the relationship the region has to broader global issues. The unique combination of coursework, field studies, and travel seminars create an outstanding opportunity to engage in an analysis of migration, the global economy, environmental degradation, development, sustainability, transnational communities, international boundaries, and justice in a land marked by numerous inequalities.

You can also read a chapter about the Border Studies Program that was published in a new book called Putting the Local in Global Education: Models for Transformative Learning through Domestic Off-Campus Programs.

Program Dates

Spring 2017: January 10 - May 1

Fall 2017: August 15 - December 11

Spring 2018: January 9 - May 7

How to Apply

The Border Studies Program is open to students from all academic backgrounds and majors in good standing at any college or university. All participants must be full-time undergraduate students. For Spanish language requirements, please visit the Language Learning webpage. 

Happenings on the Border

In May, professors from a variety of liberal arts colleges belonging to the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) joined us here on the border to get a taste of the experiential learning and radical pedagogy to which we expose our students in the Border Studies Program. The BSP staff and GLCA participants spent two weeks learning from each other, the Tucson community, and several communities in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico. Throughout our time together, we deepened our understandings of the realities of living in militarized zones, explored the political, social, and economic complexities of human migration, and bore witness to the many forms of resistance taking place in the spaces we were so fortunate to visit. As a result of our collaboration, each of us as individuals and a collective seek to find ways to most ethically and responsibly incorporate our new knowledges into our teaching and research. To learn more, visit

We want to bid a fond farewell to our Resident Director Riley Merline! Riley worked with the Border Studies Program for eight years here in the Arizona/Sonora borderlands, helping to establish the program in this community and shaping the lives of numerous students who visited the borderlands. Thanks Riley for everything and best of luck in what is yet to come!

Spring '15 BSP alum Isabel Ball has been named a Luce Scholar. The Henry Luce Foundation provides funding for young leaders to spend a year in Asia conducting research that will lead to their professional advancement.

We are still accepting applications for Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. Please check with your off-campus study office for internal deadlines as they may be different. Apply now!

Border Studies alum Elsa Goossen is currently a volunteer at the San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center in Alamosa, Colorado. Read about her experience working in immigrants rights' post BSP here.

The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted the Border Studies Program in this article about semester programs that offer opportunities for global education within the United States.

Read a chapter about the Border Studies Program that was published in a new book called Putting the Local in Global Education: Models for Transformative Learning through Domestic Off-Campus Programs.

'09 alum Alice Ollstein is a political reporter for Talking Points Memo and also one of our Rising Stars. She was interviewed in July 2017 by News Media Alliance.

Border Studies alum Sophia Yapalater is part of the ACLU New York office's Immigrants' Rights Project. Read an article she wrote related to her work - A Tale of Two Immigrants - here.

Maddie Taterka, Contributing Editor for Autostraddle and Fall 2012 BSP Alum, recently published a piece on the detention of child migrants in Arizona.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get program updates, images from the field, and the latest news and analysis from the borderlands.

Read the participants' updates from the Borderlands and follow their experiences throughout the semester at our Border Studies blog.

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