Faculty + Staff

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco appointed to Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

Pope Francis selects dean of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies to join international cadre of scholars

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Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and Pope Francis
Courtesy Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Wasserman Dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, meets Pope Francis in 2013.

Pope Francis has appointed Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco as an Academician of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. A congratulatory letter from Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, underscores the selection of Suárez-Orozco as aligned with the goals of the academy in promoting the study and the progress of the social sciences and the elements of research the church “can use in the development of her social doctrine, and … the application of that doctrine in contemporary society.”

The academy, famed for its distinguished scholars — among whom are Nobel Laureates — from around the world and representing all denominations and faiths, endeavors to develop basic research to weigh in on the pressing issues of the day. Academicians are appointed for a term of 10 years and can be reappointed. They take part in sessions of the Holy See; present papers and data; debate and vote on motions; and propose new projects as well as new candidates for nomination.

“This is a great honor and an even greater responsibility,” said Suárez-Orozco, who leads the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “The appointment fills me with joy and a deep sense of obligation. The Holy Father has wisely identified migration, poverty and the environment as among the defining issues of our times. He is the voice of love, charity and respect for the inherent dignity of all human beings. I am humbled to be able to take the work of so many colleagues from UCLA and beyond to inform, as best I can, the work of the Academy moving forward.”

Over the last three decades, Suárez-Orozco has examined the causes and consequences of mass migration with a focus on the family, children and youth. In a series of studies with UCLA professor Carola Suárez-Orozco funded by the National Science Foundation — including the largest award in the history of the cultural anthropology division — the Ford Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, Spencer Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and many others, he has made lasting contributions to the conceptual, theoretical and empirical study of immigration with a focus on children and youth.

Suárez-Orozco was first invited by the Vatican to present his research on education more than a decade ago. Since then, he has contributed as an invited scholar to multiple studies of the Pontifical Academies on transnational migration, globalization and education. 

Currently, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco is leading a major international, interdisciplinary study of the catastrophic migrations of the 21st Century, with an emphasis on the health, mental health, education and legal protections for forcefully displaced children and youth. In 2017, he convened a workshop on humanitarianism and mass migration at UCLA, in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Ross Institute of New York. Findings from this workshop will be presented in a soon-to-be-released book from University of California Press.

“Catastrophic migrations and violent family separations are the existential crisis of our times. They disrupt the developmental pathways necessary for children and youth to establish basic trust, feel secure, and have a healthy orientation toward the world and the future,” Suárez-Orozco said. “Furthermore, the new data suggest that physical, sexual, and psychological abuse are normative features of forced migrations, both during the journey and in the subhuman conditions that prevail in many refugee camps. Catastrophic migrations are life-thwarting, and they harming children’s physical, psychological, moral and social well-being by placing them in contexts that are inherently dangerous. The data from our new research reveal that the structures in place to protect the health and mental health of refugees and asylum seekers are in many ways anachronistic and out of touch with current dynamics.”

The inaugural UCLA Wasserman Dean of Education and Information Studies, Suárez-Orozco is a member of the board of governors of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Education, a recipient of Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle and trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. His award-winning books have been published by Harvard University Press, Stanford University Press, University of California Press, Cambridge University Press, New York University Press and others. His scholarly papers, which are written in multiple languages, appear in such journals as Annual Reviews of Anthropology, Harvard Business Review, Harvard Educational Review, Revue Française de Pédagogie (Paris), Cultuur en Migratie (Leuven), Temas: Cultura, Ideologia y Sociedad (Havana), Ethos, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Policy Review and others. He regularly contributes to national and international media outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Time, U.S News and World Report, the HuffPo, CNN, NPR, CNN Español, MSNBC and other venues.

Suárez-Orozco has served as special advisor to the chief prosecutor, the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands. At Harvard, he served as the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education, co-founder and co-director of the Harvard Immigration Project, and founding member of the executive committee of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

At New York University, Suárez-Orozco was the inaugural Courtney Sale Ross Professor of Globalization and Education and also held the title of university professor. He has held fellowships at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study and Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. He has been visiting professor at the University of Barcelona, the Catholic University of Leuven, and Directeur d’Études Associé, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He is a sought-after speaker and has lectured at the German foreign office, the Mexican foreign office, the Spanish foreign office, the U.S. Congress, the Federal Reserve, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, and others.

An immigrant from Argentina, Suárez-Orozco is product of the “California Master plan” having studied at a California community college and at UC Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in anthropology in 1986. His wife of 41 years is Carola Suárez-Orozco, a psychologist who studies immigration, who is also a professor of human development and psychology at UCLA.

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