S-1Meng L. So, M.A., Director, Undocumented Student Program

Meng graduated as a first-generation college student from UC Berkeley. He then went on to receive a Masters in Education and Organizational Change from UC Los Angeles. Meng was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is excited to partner with faculty, staff, and students to implement a comprehensive agenda that provides holistic support for the undocumented student community. Under his guidance, the program looks to support further initiatives, research, and advocacy to create safe spaces for undocumented members of the on-campus community. He is an active member of the E4FC Educators Action Group (EAG) and sits on the Standing Committee for Undocumented Members of the On-Campus Community.

Fun Fact: Meng loves to play basketball and invites others to join him on the courts. He speaks Khmer and loves to learn and laugh.

 

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Liliana Iglesias, M.Ed, Counselor

Liliana graduated from UC Berkeley as a first generation college student and earned her Master’s degree in Educational Counseling from the University of Southern California. Born and raised in the Los Angeles county, Liliana quickly became aware of the injustices and inequalities that are prevalent in society. She is passionate about increasing college access and retention amongst first generation and low income students and students from underserved/marginalized communities. Liliana comes from a mixed status family and has always held immigration issues close to her heart. As the Academic Counselor for USP, Liliana is excited about providing academic, financial, and holistic support to students so that they excel in college and beyond.

Fun Fact: Liliana danced Mexican folklorico for four years, she enjoys playing different musical instruments, and she is a big fan of Chai tea.

S-2Ruben Elias Canedo Sanchez, Research and Mobilization Coordinator, Center for Educational Equity and Excellence

Ruben graduated as a first-generation college student from UC Berkeley. Ruben was born and raised in the border valleys of Coachella (US), Imperial (US) and Mexicali (MEX). Ruben was part of a mixed status family throughout his childhood. After 26 years both of his parents are finally US citizens. Programs such as AVIDM.E.S.A.F.L.A.M.E.Junior Statesmen of AmericaEducational Opportunity Program, and the McNair Scholars Program helped to develop and propel Ruben to his current position as the Coordinator of Research and Mobilization at the Center for Educational Equity and Excellence at UC Berkeley. Today, he facilitates statewide and national efforts to transform higher education by increasing the graduation and representation of historically underrepresented students, faculty, and administrators. Finally, in the last three years, Ruben has devoted his time to presenting educational motivational speeches and keynote addresses across K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations.

Fun Fact: Ruben is a major foodie, he loves to explore new foods, and he passionately avoids restaurant chains when he travels. In the last year, he has found a new passion for creating his own dishes at home.

 

Diana Peña, PhD., Licensed Psychologist

Diana graduated as a first-generation college student from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, which is where she was born and raised. She then received her M.S. in Counseling, Family and Human Services, as well as her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Oregon. Her professional experiences have been shaped by her interests in immigrant and undocumented student mental health, LGBTQ-affirmative therapy, resilience among queer and trans people of color, spirituality, grief/loss, career counseling, mindfulness, and cultural adjustment.

Her passion for serving underrepresented students is rooted in her own experience as a queer Chicana from an immigrant family, and is integral to her approach as a mental health professional. She is thrilled to join the USP team to support the holistic well-being of undocumented students at UC Berkeley.

Fun Fact: Diana is a bilingual English/Spanish therapist, and is very comfortable with the use of ‘Spanglish’ in therapy.

Prerna Lal, Esq. Immigration Attorney

Prerna Lal graduated from California State University, East Bay and obtained a Masters in International relations from San Francisco State University before matriculating at The George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. Her journey towards becoming an attorney was long and arduous—Prerna came to the United States when she was 14 from the Fiji Islands, and grew up in a mixed status family, where only her older sibling had papers. After her parents received legal status while she remained undocumented, Prerna founded the DreamActivist network, an online advocacy network led by undocumented youth, which mobilized thousands of young undocumented immigrants into pushing for the federal DREAM Act, DACA, and more recently, expanding prosecutorial discretion policies. Prerna has also helped with the creation of many local immigrant youth groups, providing direct legal support, mentorship and advocacy to individuals caught up in the immigration dragnet. While in law school, Prerna was placed in removal proceedings, until the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed her to gain legal status through her same-sex partner. Prior to joining the East Bay Community Law Center and USP, Prerna was an immigration staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, and worked closely with the Not One More Deportation campaign.

Fun Fact: With her newfound ability to travel abroad, Prerna loves to figure out how to (frugally) visit different countries with her partner, and partake in adventurous activities such as cycling, and scuba-diving. She’s also an avid international football (soccer) enthusiast, and spends most of her spare time watching Bollywood movies.