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Transfer Student Finds Faith and Community at Fordham


Lucia Barberena was already accustomed to change, having moved from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to New York City in 2022 to earn a bachelor’s degree at the King’s College in Lower Manhattan.

But in March 2023, the Kings College announced it would be closing. Barberena, who had been attending on a prestigious Jack Cooke Kent scholarship, found herself searching for a new school.

Getting Involved on Campus

She’s now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Fordham’s School for Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS). In her short time at Fordham, she has been active in the University’s Immigration Advocacy Coalition and Model United Nations Club. Working with the Office of Prestigious Fellowships, Barberena also applied for the Truman Scholarship.

A Trip to the Mexican Border

Last month she traveled to the Mexican border in Arizona on a Global Outreach (GO) trip. She enjoyed it so much she will be leading a GO trip to Texas this summer.

“I had a phenomenal time. It was such a great learning experience for me, and I made so many good friends,” she said.

“All of my professors have been super nice, and I feel like all of them want me to succeed,” she said.

Faith and Community

For Barberena, it helps that, like the King’s College, Fordham has deep connections to the Christian faith through its Jesuit heritage.

“I really appreciate a lot of the community work that Fordham is doing and the philosophical approaches that they have,” she said.

“I feel like it promotes learning and independent thinking, but also being in a community and learning from the community that you’re in.”

Advocating for Immigrants

After she graduates in December, she’d like to go to law school and specialize in immigration law. This month, she started an internship at the Center for Migration Studies of New York. She was moved to get involved in the field in 2019 when ICE raids detained 600 illegal immigrants in Mississippi. As a child, she attended a Spanish-speaking church in Meridian, Mississippi, and she knew that many fellow parishioners from that parish had legal statuses similar to those detained.

“Thinking of the people who I had gone to church with being detained and potentially deported was really sad. I was thoroughly disgusted,” she said.

“I started looking into immigration law and politics, and honestly, it made me even more sad. That’s what made me want to become an advocate for migrants.”

Service in the cause of others was something that she was already well acquainted with, having become Mississippi’s first female Eagle Scout in 2019. While earning an associate’s degree at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, she raised $50,000 to endow a newly created Society Advocating for Latin Student Advancement (SALSA) Scholarship, which grants $2,000 a year for Hispanic students seeking an associate degree. The first recipient was a political refugee from Venezuela who she’d met through ESL classes offered at the college.

Tara E. Czechowski, Ph.D., an associate dean at PCS who taught Barberena in her course Texts and Contexts, said that Barberena created a sense of community through her participation.

“Her energy gives other people energy to participate in class, respond, and take an interest in the subject,” she said.

“PCS students really are unstoppable in general, but Lucia’s level of dedication to public service, to people outside of herself, is unique. She’s the epitome of the whole idea of “men and women for others.”



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