“Can the American dream be a reality or is it just an illusion?” Widian Nicola, Doctoral Social Work student, asks of an undocumented immigrant. Nicola was fascinated by his story of how he plans to achieve the American dream and utilizes it as part of her six-episode podcast series that she is creating for her research project. This man’s American wife also makes an appearance on this series, to give Americans an opportunity to relate to the scenario of building a life with an undocumented immigrant.
Another man Nicola encountered has been living in America since he was three. However, after getting into a fight at 19, he was arrested then deported, leaving his family behind. She is troubled by the fact that his family struggled to help him come to and live in America, but policy made it so easy for him be sent away.
Through the stories of undocumented immigrants and their loved ones, Nicola is able to do advocacy work around this issue. Their stories and this research has allowed her to write about undocumented immigrants through the unique lenses of a social worker, hoping to make a positive change to policies surrounding this issue. Nicola’s objective is to shine a light on this phenomenon by showing the complexity and diversity of the issue beyond politics.
Nicola explores how people protect ourselves from “others” and why people separate themselves from communities that don’t look like theirs. “My goal is to look at how people can repair ruptured relationships in communities so they are more inclusive to these immigrants. My hope is to have a project that transcends political discourse and instead focuses on relationality and community,” she says.
This ambitious student was drawn to Rutgers’ DSW program because of its emphasis on writing and qualitative research through clinical case studies, making it a unique program. Nicola attributes much of her success in the program to the supportive and committed staff at the School of Social Work. She especially thanks Miriam Jaffe, director of doctorate in Social Work Writing Program, Jerry Floersch, associate professor, and Jeffrey Longhofer, associate professor, for allowing her to contribute new knowledge to the field of social work.
Upon receiving her DSW in May, Nicola would like to obtain a tenured faculty position at a university where she will have the opportunity to teach about conflict resolution and peace in politics.