Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Michael Cerda-Jara Humanities and Social Science

Criminal Record, Education, and Employment in the Era of Mass Incarceration

Recently, the U.S. has seen a growing increase in the number of programs advocating for more formerly incarcerated college students. In California, the Bay Area is home to a number of these programs. One prime example, the Underground Scholars Initiative (USI), is a pioneering program located at the University of California, Berkeley that focuses on creating a pathway into higher education for formerly incarcerated individuals. As a leading institution, UC Berkeley has seen an increasing number of formerly incarcerated students graduate with a Bachelors degree. USIs first graduation ceremony was held in May of 2016 and had a graduating class of fourteen students who were all formerly incarcerated and/or system-impacted. My project will test whether those with a criminal record and a Bachelors degree are harmed in the labor market for college degree jobs through an audit study of job application callbacks. I will expand on current research on criminal records in the labor market by focusing on jobs that require at least a four-year degree. My research will inform scholars and policy makers on the issues of stigmas and barricades associated with having a criminal record and help them to enact policies to improve job placement rates for college-educated formerly incarcerated people.

Message To Sponsor

The SURF Fellowship experience has definitely helped me become a more confident researcher than I thought I was. I felt that I wasn't in this process alone. With the guidance and support of the program faculty and mentors, I was able to stay focused and grow as a scholar. As a result, I have made up my mind that I will go on to earn a PhD in the field of Sociology so that I will be able to add to the discourse of my interest and help others. I am deeply grateful that the Wishek Fund afforded me this invaluable opportunity to conduct my own research over the summer, thank you!
Profile image of Michael Cerda-Jara
Major: Sociology
Mentor: David J. Harding
Sponsor: Wishek L&S
Back to Listings
Back to Donor Reports