Discover CALS

See how our current work and research is bringing new thinking and new solutions to some of today's biggest challenges.

  • Department of Communication
  • Communication
  • Health + Nutrition
Monica Cornejo, assistant professor, Department of Communication

Academic focus: Undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, interpersonal communication, advocacy communication, health and well-being

Research summary: My research centers on understanding: (1) how the structural barriers that undocumented immigrants face result in economic, educational, social and health inequities, (2) how such barriers prompt certain communication identity management and advocacy communication strategies, and (3) what those strategies mean for undocumented immigrants’ health and well-being. To ensure that my research findings reach immigrant communities, stakeholders and allies, I co-founded the Communication and Empowerment Collaborative alongside my colleague and doctorate advisor, Jennifer Kam.  

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my partner. I also enjoy painting, drawing and creative writing. I self-published a children’s book, “The Adventures of Juanito: The Undocumented Boy,” focused on the experience of a Mexican undocumented boy in the United States.  

What are your current outreach/extension projects? 

I was involved in work with Lideres del Futuro, a nonprofit dedicated to immigrant communities in Sonoma County. Primarily my role was to provide advice on research-related projects aimed to explore their stakeholders’ experiences. In the future, I am excited to get involved in outreach opportunities at Cornell focused on (un)documented immigrants in the New York area and beyond.  

What are three adjectives people might use to describe you? 

Witty, resourceful, tenacious  

What (specifically) brought you to Cornell CALS? 

I wanted to work in a university where my colleagues are doing research that have important social implications for minoritized communities. Various faculty in the Department of Communication conduct public engagement research focused on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and this is a good fit for my work. Further, I wanted to work in a place where my colleagues could push my own work forward. Of course, I was also attracted to Cornell because of its stellar reputation. 

Why did you feel inspired to pursue a career in this field? 

As an undocumented immigrant, I was inspired to pursue a career in interpersonal communication because I wanted to understand how others’ (e.g., family, professors, peers, media) messages create barriers that prompt us (undocumented immigrants) to engage in certain communication identity management and advocacy communication strategies, and what these strategies mean for our (undocumented immigrants’) well-being. 

What’s the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve discovered about Cornell and/or Ithaca so far? 

Its beautiful waterfalls and lakes! 

If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve? 

I’d like to solve the issue of sample representation within the interpersonal communication subfield. Largely, our research focuses on Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) samples, which limits our understanding of minoritized communities, who could benefit from our research. This research might also benefit non-minoritized group members by highlighting the experiences of other members of our global community.  

Learn more about Monica on her faculty profile page.

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