Germán Cadenas, Lehigh’s newest professor in the Counseling and Psychology department, has devoted his life to researching undocumented immigrants and underrepresented minorities because he was once an undocumented immigrant himself.
In his research, Cadenas focuses on how activism, specifically social justice activism, is related to educational, mental health and career outcomes for these groups.
Before coming to Lehigh, Cadenas was a professor at Berkeley, Arizona State and San Francisco State University.
Cadenas chose to continue his research at Lehigh because he noticed that Lehigh’s counseling psychology program was oriented toward social justice and multiculturalism. He said he likes working at a small, private institution because it is a more personal environment.
Cadenas credits his career in psychology with his status as a first-generation college graduate.
“I am also an immigrant and I was undocumented for a long time,” Cadenas said. “In many ways through my own experience, learning how to navigate the higher education process on my own, really led me to my agenda.”
Cadenas’ advisee Nathalie Lynn, ’18G, said Cadenas is a supportive adviser. She said he is patient and is invested in her growth as a student.
“(Cadenas) is great,” Lynn said. “He is really inspirational. Just his story and the way he is able to show so much resilience and do it in a way that he continues to serve and advocate for his community.”
Cadenas is teaching a course called Helping Skills where students learn basic skills to become mental health or school counselors. He summarized his class as an applied course where students learn and practice skills.
Meenal Jog,’20G, Cadenas’ teaching assistant, has learned a lot from Cadenas.
“I think he brings a lot of humor in his teaching, and he also is very creative in engaging students and making whatever they are learning more applicable,” Jog said.
Jog said he has been a good mentor and has helped her build connections for internships.
Cadenas plans on working with students in and outside of the classroom during his time at Lehigh.
One way he will achieve this is through teaching Culture-Centered Career Development. He said the class would be about career counseling and career development. It would be a hands-on way for students to learn how to be counselors.
He is also going to start new research lab in the spring called Liberation Psychology lab.
“It takes a social justice approach to counseling psychology, and through the lab, I think students are going to be able to help me with my research and also create new research projects,” Cadenas said.
Cadenas is planning to launch a new study to see how undocumented students are coping with the immigration policy changes happening in the U.S.
“I think he brings a really unique research perspective to our program,” Jog said. “Our program has been expanding a little bit and he is the new faculty addition. I think that he brings a lot of diversity to the research interest amongst the faculty.”