Border Studies Program


  • We are still accepting applications for the Spring 2015 Border Studies Program! The deadline for applying is October 17, 2014. Apply now!
  • The BSP is excited to announce that we have new staff and family member, Alisha Vasquez! Read her bio and a brief Q&A here!
  • Maddie Taterka, Contributing Editor for Autostraddle and Fall 2012 BSP Alum, recently published a piece on the detention of child migrants in Arizona.
  • Spring 2014 Border Studies Program alum Alex Cook is working this summer with migrant advocacy group Migrant Justice. Read about his work with the Vermont based organization here.
  • Marcos Ramos, Earlham grad and Spring 2013 BSP alum is spending his summer in his native Brazil after having won a Davis Project for Peace Grant for his project “Navigating Discourses of Sexuality: Resistance to Homophobia in Brazil”. Read more here.
  • Read the participants' updates from the Borderlands and follow their experiences throughout the semester at our Border Studies blog.
  • Read BSP Instructor Katie Sharar's piece for NACLA's Border Wars blog on immigration enforcement in Texas' Big Bend region.
  • Click below to check out our Facebook & Twitter pages and follow what the BSP is currently up to!
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About Us

Location | Eligibility | Credits | Resident Director | Program Dates | Program Fees

"I could never have learned what I did from a book or a lecture. I had to live the border—see it, touch it, feel the dry heat, experience the racial profiling – to really understand it. There were so many times this semester when words were unnecessary. We just had to look, at the wall, the military bases, etc." ~Past Participant


The Border Studies Program is based in the southern Arizona borderlands in Tucson, Arizona. This unique program is situated in a way that students are able to fully embrace and understand the complexities of this dynamic region.

Positioned at a crucial crossroads between the Global North and South, Tucson offers a unique perspective for both the fall and spring semester programs. The confluence of different communities, cultures, and bioregions makes this desert city and its surroundings an apt lens from which to focus on learning about both national and international shifts in intersecting issues affecting societies and the environment.

In Tucson, The University of Arizona, local popular education groups, and civil society organizations all contribute to the large number of scholars, activists, and academic programs that focus on migration, border issues, and sustainability. The city also counts strong, nationally and internationally recognized social movements responding to issues such as migrant deaths, borderlands militarization, human rights, and civil liberties.

The Border Patrol's Tucson sector is the top crossing point for undocumented immigrants. The Tucson sector is also the point along the border experiencing the most severe humanitarian crisis as hundreds of migrants perish every year in the harsh desert environment. While migrants passing through this sector come from all over Mexico and Central America, the highest percentages have been from Chiapas and Oaxaca, both of which the spring program visits.

Arizona has recently been referred to by some as the epicenter of the struggle for human rights in the United States. Located in the heart of this struggle in Tucson, the program allows students to experience this process from the inside out, exploring local policy, practice, and responses to the current human rights debate on the border.

Tuscon and the Sonoran desert are also appropriate places from which to embark on a deeper examination of issues of sustainability. This bioregion ranges from high altitude sky island mountain ranges that serve as way points for migrating species to the extremely biodiverse Sea of Cortez. A metropolitan area of near one million residents in the middle of the desert, Tucson has many environmental organizations working on both sides of the border to protect the binational ecosystem and to seek sustainable living models in these arid lands.


The fall program is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors of all academic majors and backgrounds. One year of college level Spanish (or equivalent) is required to participate in the fall.

The spring program is open to juniors and seniors only. Two years of college level Spanish (or equivalent) are required for the spring program.

Students from all colleges and universities are eligible to apply. Please review specific policies at your university related to program approval and participation. The Border Studies program is more than willing to work with students from any institution to assist with their participation with the program.


Students may earn 18 semester credits (or equivalent) for successful completion of the program. All students must be full time participants.

Resident Director and Program Staff

Riley Merline is The Border Studies Program Resident Director. Riley along with other Tucson-based Border Studies Program Staff coordinate all aspects of the program throughout the semester and work closely with the students. Riley also teaches the core seminar courses for both semester programs. BSP staff members and local experts teach additional program courses for each semester.

Program Dates

The Border Studies Program takes place every fall and spring semester. Each semester program runs for 15-weeks and includes a break.

The spring semester runs from mid-January to early May.

The fall semester runs from mid-August to late November.

For relevant application deadlines and other important program dates see How to Apply.

Program Fees

Program fees cover academic costs, room and board, and required program excursions as well as transfer of credits and grades. A non-refundable deposit of $350.00 will be due upon acceptance. Students at member colleges of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, Inc. (GLCA, Inc.) remain eligible for their college's financial aid program and should consult the Financial Aid Office on their campuses.

Students are responsible for the cost of transportation to and from the program site, books and materials, independent travel, and personal expenses.

For more information email

"My learning experience was packed and stressful. It was also hugely satisfying and enlightening. I’m ready for anything now." ~Program Participant

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