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Monday, April 15th 2019
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
When: 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 241
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 - 17:00
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Our fifth and final session of the spring 2019 series pairs two experts from Sociology and Law, with special guest moderator Elle Fersan, Director of the Immigrants and Global Migration Initiative.  Through conversation with the panelists and our polymathic student community, we will learn, consider, and generate actionable solutions around the myriad concerns surrounding IMMIGRATION.


Polymathic Pairing:

Jody Agius Vallejo, Sociology

Niels Frenzen, Law

Elle Fersan, IGMI


Photo of Jody Agius Vallejo

Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo

Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo is Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is also associate director of USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. Dr. Agius Vallejo holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Agius Vallejo’s research concentrates on: immigrant integration, the Latino middle class, Latino business owners, Latino elites, race and ethnicity, wealth accumulation, and inequality and mobility mechanisms. Dr. Vallejo systematically addresses these issues with a methodological approach that combines the qualitative strengths of traditional sociological inquiry (e.g. in-depth interviews, participant observation, and ethnography) with demographic analysis of representative statistics from the U.S. Census. Her book, Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class (Stanford University Press, 2012) examines the mechanisms—such as parental legal status, access to higher education, and business ownership—that expedite social mobility and integration into the middle class for Mexican Americans. Dr. Vallejo’s second book, in progress, examines the institutions that support the Latino economic elite, their patterns of ethnic philanthropy, and the challenges and successes they experience in business and in corporate America. She is also a Co-Principal Investigator with Lisa Keister on a project examining heterogeneous integration outcomes of today's new immigrants via the lens of wealth ownership and business ownership. This study, funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on Chinese immigrant communities and relies on mixed methods including extensive quantitative analyses of large data sets and interviews with Chinese American business owners in Southern California.

Photo of Niels Frenzen

Niels Frenzen

Niels Frenzen specializes in immigration and refugee law and is director of the USC Gould School of Law Immigration Clinic. He has been teaching at USC since 2000 and practicing law since 1985. Prior to joining USC, Frenzen practiced with non-profit law offices: his experience includes working as directing attorney of the Immigrants' Rights Project at Public Counsel in Los Angeles; supervising attorney at the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami; and legislative coordinator of the ACLU of Iowa. He has represented many asylum seekers and other immigrants, has litigated federal court cases challenging the mistreatment of noncitizens, and has litigated immigration court national security cases involving classified evidence. He received his BA from Beloit College and his JD from Drake University Law School. He is admitted to the bars of California, Florida, Iowa, and is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales. Frenzen also writes and blogs about migration from Africa to Europe (

Elle Fersan has recently joined USC as the Director of the Immigrants and Global Migration Initiative. She likes to describe herself as an activist, and works on women, LGBT and immigrant rights in the US and Lebanon. Elle is herself an immigrant from Lebanon and studies the histories of migration from the Middle East to the Americas.

Professionally, she has a career of 15 years in international development, advocacy, campaigning and fundraising working with the US Department of State, the United Nations and Local Governments. Among her accomplishments, she has investigated and uncovered a sex trafficking network of LGBT Syrian refugees, passed the first public non-smoking ban in a city in the Middle East and North Africa region and accelerated in inclusion of women political participation through devising and funding of programs both at the local and national levels in Lebanon.

She is founder and CEO of Global Nexus Solutions, a company that provides expert advice on fundraising and international development to NGOs and universities.

She is a Global Women Leader Eisenhower Fellow (2015), One of UNESCO’s Top 40 Lebanese Women from the Grassroots and laureate of numerous US Department of State honor awards for her contributions to civil society development.

Follow her on all social media platforms at: @ellefersan and @USCigmi