William Perez is a professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University. His research focuses on the social and psychological processes associated with academic success and higher education access among immigrant, undocumented, indigenous, and deported students in the U.S. and Mexico. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading academic experts on undocumented students. In 2009, he received the 2009 Mildred Garcia Prize for Excellence in Research from the Association for the Study of Higher Education for his book, We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream. His follow up book, Americans by Heart: Undocumented Latino Students and the Promise of Higher Education, was selected for the 2013 Critics Choice Award by the American Educational Studies Association. He has been interviewed or quoted as an academic expert in various media outlets including NBC Nightly News, Time Magazine, the LA Times, Hispanic Magazine, the Washington Post, and NPR’s All Things Considered. He has also received various awards for his research on immigration and education including the Stanford University Distinguished Scholar Alumni Award, the early career scholar award from the Hispanic Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association and the Fulbright Fellowship. For the past four years (2015-2018), he has been selected for Education Week’s annual ranking of the top 200 university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice.
Stanford University: Ph.D., Education
Pomona College: Bachelor of Arts, Psychology
Areas of Expertise (19)
Immigration Status & Nationality
Race and Ethnicity
Indigenous Mexican Immigrant Students in U.S. schools
Undocumented latino immigrants in the U.S.
Deportation and family separation
Psychological and environmental factors that impact immigrant student achievement
Industry Expertise (3)
Fulbright-Garcia Robles Research Fellowship (Mexico) (professional)
- American Educational Research Association (AERA)
- Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE)
- Comparative and International Education Society (CIES)
- Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA)
Research Grants (1)
The Allies of DREAMers Certificate Project: Creating a community of trained DREAMER advocates
BLAIS Foundation $24,000
Academic Resilience Among Undocumented Latino StudentsHispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
Perez, W., Ramos, K., Espinoza, R., & Cortes, R.
This study examined the academic resilience of undocumented immigrant Latino students. It was hypothesized that due to their legal and social marginalization, students who experienced high risk accompanied by high levels of both personal and environmental protective factors would have higher academic outcomes than students with lower levels of these protective resources. The results from regression and cluster analyses (N = 104) indicated that despite specific risk factors (e.g., elevated feelings of societal rejection, low parental education, and high employment hours during school) undocumented students who have high levels of personal and environmental protective factors (e.g., supportive parents, friends, and participation in school activities) report higher levels of academic success than students with similar risk factors and lower levels of personal and environmental resources. The results also suggested variability in risk exposure among undocumented students with some students reporting low levels of risk accompanied by high levels of personal and environmental protective factors.
Civic Engagement Patterns of Undocumented Mexican StudentsJournal of Hispanic Higher Education
Perez, W., Ramos, K., Espinoza, R., & Cortes, R.
This study examined the civic engagement of undocumented Mexican students. Civic engagement was defined as providing a social service, activism, tutoring, and functionary work. Survey data results (n = 126) suggest that despite high feelings of rejection because of their undocumented status, part-time employment, and household responsibilities, 90% of respondents had been civically engaged. Females and students with higher academic achievement and extracurricular participation demonstrated higher civic engagement whereas older students were more likely to have participated in activism. Policy implications of undocumented Latino college student civic engagement are discussed.
Cultural Involvement, Indigenous Identity, and LanguageHispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences
Mesinas, M., & Perez, W.
This exploratory study analyzed the influence of Zapotec parental socialization practices on the cultural awareness and involvement, ethnic identity, and Zapotec language use of their adolescent children. A total of 15 parent-child dyads participated in the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents. Adolescents responded to corresponding open-ended questions in a written survey. Results indicate that the children of parents who were the most involved in cultural groups and organizations were more likely to participate in traditional dance and music groups. The children of parents who identified as indigenous and encouraged Zapotec language use were more likely to also identify as indigenous and speak Zapotec. High cultural awareness and participation among adolescents was not always related to indigenous self-identification and/or Zapotec language use. Many adolescents who did not self-identify as indigenous and did not speak Zapotec also reported high levels of cultural awareness and involvement. Implications for parental socialization research on Mexican indigenous immigrants in the United States are discussed.