Border Studies Program


  • Read the participants' updates from the Borderlands and follow their experiences throughout the semester at our Border Studies blog.
  • Resources page is updated with links to recent BSP students' final projects. Books, zines, and cds based on their experience in the borderlands have all been produced by recent participants. Look here to find photos from the current BSP semester and instructions for applying to the program too.
  • BSP Instructor Katie Sharar recently wrote a 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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Faculty & Staff

On-Site Faculty and Staff | Faculty Advisory Committee

Resident Director & On-Site Staff

Riley Merline - Resident Director

Riley MerlineRiley Merline is the Resident Director of the Border Studies Program.

Riley joined the program in 2008 and served for a semester as the Associate Director before taking his post as the RD. Riley holds a Masters in Latin American Studies from the University of Arizona where he focused on the history of U.S. interventions, Latin American revolutions, development, and international political economy. As a graduate student Riley also conducted research on the history of U.S.-Mexico border fence construction and immigration policy. Originally from Wisconsin, he holds a B.A. in Spanish from Northern Michigan University and has lived in Tucson, Arizona since 2005.

Before joining the Border Studies Program Riley worked on the Witness for Peace International Team in Colombia leading educational delegations and investigating the effects of Plan Colombia’s military aid and anti-narcotics programs on human rights and development efforts. After moving to Tucson, he worked for BorderLinks leading experiential education seminars along the U.S.-Mexico border with a focus on migration and immigration policy, free trade, international debt, cross border economies, labor issues, and human rights. Over the years Riley has also made work and study visits to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Chile.

Riley's current interests center on the ethical implications of restricting the movement of people across international boundaries, the ways in which food production and economic systems contribute to the concentration of wealth and poverty in distinct geographic locations, and how an international community can build alternative models to create greater equity and eliminate ecologically destructive practices. He looks forward to engaged discussion of these issues, among many others, with future Border Studies participants.

Whenever possible, Riley escapes the city to explore the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert and sky island mountain ranges surrounding Tucson. He also enjoys gardening and reading.

Katie Sharar

Katie ShararKatie moved to Tucson in 2008 to attend a Master’s program in Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona. Her thesis research focused on the impact of the Postville, Iowa, immigration raid and mass deportation on Guatemalan sending communities. She conducted additional research on Operation Streamline, a practice of the mass criminalization and deportation of immigrants in the Tucson area. In addition to her research on deportation-related issues, Katie is interested in alternatives to migration through the creation of just and dignified alternatives in sending countries; paths to reconciliation and healing in post-conflict societies; and defining what it means to do solidarity work.

Katie is originally from northern California, and completed her undergraduate work at Macalester College, where she received a BA in International Studies and Spanish in 2004. She also participated in the 2003 Border Studies Program, then located in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, and has not really managed to leave the borderlands alone since. She worked to provide shelter and hospitality to unauthorized immigrants in El Paso; co-founded a house for women and children recently released from immigration detention facilities outside of Austin, TX; and served as a human rights observer for genocide cases in rural Guatemala.

In her next life, Katie aspires to be a cowgirl. In this one, she very much enjoys life in the Sonoran desert, where you can find her spending time at public libraries; wearing out her shoes exploring the various nooks and crannies of Tucson and the surrounding areas; searching for the best burrito in southern Arizona; cultivating a garden; and scheming ways to live as locally, meaningfully, and sustainably as possible.

She looks forward to learning and teaching with new generations of Border Studies students, and especially to the questions they raise, the dreams they dream, and the change they create.

Jeff McWhorter

Image of Jeff McWhorterOriginally from Omaha, Nebraska, Jeff is a graduate of DePauw University in Indiana where he studied Creative Writing, History, and Spanish. During his time at DePauw Jeff spent a semester studying culture and development in Ecuador and also completed grant research concerning the political, social, and environmental effects of the mining industry on rural communities in Latin America.

Since his undergraduate studies Jeff has traveled, worked, and studied throughout the Americas having spent time in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and the U.S. Jeff’s experience has seen him managing a cloud forest nature reserve, leading educational excursions in South America, writing for and delivering a bilingual community newspaper, teaching English, conducting research on international education, delivering flowers, and doing door-to-door survey interviews and fundraising. Jeff also spent time as a human rights observer through the Intag Solidarity Network in Junin, Ecuador which continues to be the epicenter of a 15-year-long struggle against large-scale copper mining. Most recently he lived in Mexico City where he worked teaching English and volunteering his time with a variety of civil society organizations.

Jeff earned a Master’s degree in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations from the School for International Training Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. While at SIT he explored social justice and the pursuit of social change towards that end with a focus on education, human rights, and organizing. His research interests lie at the intersection of international education, solidarity, radical pedagogy, and their contribution to social change.

Jeff enjoys living in the complicated landscape of the desert and on the U.S./Mexico border. He would like to live in a more just world and hopes that his work with the Border Studies Program will help him engage in a form of praxis which moves us in that direction. In his spare time he enjoys biking, reading, and exploring the desert with his dog, Ramona.

Amanda Rader

Amanda RaderThough born and raised in Pennsylvania, Amanda’s sense of home has extended across the globe.  Her first international travel immersion was as a 6-week volunteer in rural Honduras, which set her life spiraling along new paths centered on questions of social justice and equality.  Amanda’s Honduran journey led her to join the Peace Corps after completing her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Spanish from Franklin & Marshall College.  The Peace Corps assigned Amanda to the Dominican Republic where she spent three years soaking up Dominican culture and collaborating in various projects to holistically address community health concerns. 

Turning her sights to graduate school, Amanda applied for and was awarded a World Peace Fellowship from Rotary International.  Through this fellowship program, in 2008 Amanda completed her MA in Peace & Conflict Resolution from the University of Queensland in Australia.  During the course of the fellowship, Amanda was also fortunate to study in Argentina and Brazil and intern with a progressive youth organization, Youth Action Nepal, which put on the first-ever Nepal Youth Social Forum in Kathmandu.
Following graduation, and after a brief stint living and teaching on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, Amanda accepted a position as Program Leader with Carpe Diem Education, based out of Portland, Oregon.  Over the past four years, Amanda co-led six semester programs with Carpe Diem, in that capacity traveling with small groups of students to Central and South America, South East Asia, India and the South Pacific.  Each program lasts three months and provides students opportunities for self-awakening through experiences of service, cultural immersion, language study, physical challenges and spiritual exploration.  Amanda’s work in experiential education has gifted her with countless inspiring testimonies of students awakening to life.  Most recently, Amanda designed a new semester for Carpe Diem for students to journey among First Nations of the southwest US, to engage in meaningful exchange with communities, and gain perspective and inspiration from Indigenous worldviews.

Amanda continues to deepen into a passion for peace work through insights gained from intense journeys across cultural ‘boundaries.’  She holds a profound belief in the potential of motivated youth to positively transform our world, and for that reason is honored to be joining the Border Studies team where motivation abounds.

Rosalva Fuentes - Housing Coordinator

Rosalva FuentesRosalva Fuentes is the housing coordinator for the Earlham College Border Studies Program . Originally from Hermosillo, Sonora, Rosalva has lived in Tucson for ten years and since her arrival has been very involved in working with various community groups. She was an active organizer against the anti-immigrant Proposition 200 in Arizona, was involved in the “Mi Familia Vota” movement to activate Latino voters in Arizona, and also organized a women’s program through the Tucson Community Food Bank. After organizing health care workers for SEIU, Rosalva most recently worked with American Friends Service Committee and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women to promote labor rights among the immigrant community and especially of the rights of Women workers. Rosalva is married, has three wonderful children, and looks forward to continuing to work with Border Studies students.           

Tesa Mayorga - Spanish Instructor

Tesa MayorgaTesa Mayorga teaches Spanish at the Border Studies Program. She joined the program in the fall of 2012. Originally from El Salvador, she has been in the United States since the early years of the country’s civil war. Learning English as a young girl, Spanish is her native language. Tesa grew up interested and connected to social justice efforts, beginning with her parents and family friends, throughout her life. She lived in Washington DC during high school and attended the University of Virginia for her undergraduate education. Since then she has lived, studied and worked in a variety of cities in the United States and Latin America ranging from New Orleans and upstate NY to Mexico City and San Salvador. Tesa holds a BS in biology, a BS in nursing, a Master of Public Health degree (concentration in international health and health policy), and a License in Massage Therapy. In her formal studies and professional life her focus has been in women’s health, education, and socioeconomic justice.

In El Salvador she worked in the capital and in rural communities helping to organize around women’s rights issues, youth and women taking on leadership roles, educational rights, and ob/gyn health, among other things. She also collaborated in an organization dedicated to helping families find their dear ones forcefully disappeared during the war. In Arizona Tesa has held positions in educational, clinical, research and community health program environments. She recently worked at the University of Arizona College of Public Health for several years providing program development, monitoring and evaluation, training and research assistance to community health education programs and other state-wide initiatives such as the Battered Immigrant Women Project. Her work led her to travel throughtout the state’s southern half and work closely with several border communities such as Nogales, Douglas and Yuma, as well as collaborate with others along the US-Mexico border in CA, NM and TX.

Tesa has lived in Tucson 1999-2000 and since 2004. Being an immigrant herself and holding profound ethical ideas around the innate liberty of all to go where they best can live, she has participated in organzing efforts through several community organizations involving issues like unjust immigration proposals (200, 300, SB1070, to name a few) and fair wages in Tucson. She is also deeply interested in learning as much as possible about more sustainable economic and food production systems than what currently exists in our society.

As a bi-cultural and culture-loving person, she also has been extremely fortunate to spend time in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Brazil. Her interests these days are also in the spiritual and reflective realms, studying Buddhadharma, meditation, and yoga for some time now. She is also deeply in love with nature, the ocean, mountains, the desert, and gets outside as often as possible all year long.

Tesa has a solid faith in our youth’s capacity to contribute to positive change in the planet and is very happy to get to know the students of the Border Studies Program.

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