As a teenager, Stephanie A. Pullés dropped out of high school due to financial hardship and housing insecurity. When she was eventually able to start her college career at Orange Coast College, school had to come second to work. She juggled multiple jobs to support herself through community college and completion of her bachelor’s at UCI where she graduated with degrees in comparative literature and economics. And she didn’t stop there.

“I was really interested in studying issues facing immigrant populations,” she says. So she applied and was accepted to UCI’s graduate program in sociology where “the discipline’s substantive and methodological flexibility allowed me to interrogate questions related to immigrant wellbeing using multiple approaches.”

She chose UCI’s sociology department in particular due to the number of faculty experts in a wide range of topics related to international migration, the department’s active research centers devoted to her areas of interest, and the opportunities the program afforded her to gain multidisciplinary training.

“I’m most interested in understanding whether and how immigrants achieve socioeconomic mobility while confronted with numerous social, political, and economic barriers upon arriving to a host country,” she says. “I’m also interested in the impacts of restrictive immigration policies on the life chances for migrants as well as their intergenerational consequences for the children of immigrants.”  

Her master’s thesis examined the gendered, intergenerational consequences of undocumented status on educational attainment for the children of Mexican migrants. And her dissertation work considers how social position and resource access interact to reproduce and maintain economic inequality among Latinx business owners in the U.S.

Her findings – published in three different journal pieces – provide insights on the conditions that enable Latinx entrepreneurs to achieve business success. Her research also reveals the constraints these groups continue to face that hinder growth for Latinx-owned businesses.

Her work has been supported through multiple fellowships including the Society for the Study of Social Problems Racial/Ethnic Minority Graduate Fellowship and UCI’s President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship. She also received critical funding in the early stages of her career from UCI’s Graduate Division with the Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship and Faculty Mentor Program Fellowship. Her research was also supported through various grants from UC’s California Immigration Research Initiative, UCI’s Center for Organizational Studies, and UCI’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute. 

This month, Pullés will be hooded with the UCI class of 2021 as a newly minted Ph.D. recipient. She’s currently working for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a statistician – a role that allows her to apply the skills learned through her doctoral training to contribute to impactful research that addresses systemic discrimination in the workplace. As she progresses in her career, she hopes to continue addressing unmet needs of immigrant and minority communities through research, teaching, and service. And she’s incredibly thankful for the mentors who have helped her at every stage of her academic career.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the tremendous support I received from key mentors at critical moments that enabled me to complete my undergraduate studies and earn a doctoral degree,” she says.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephpulles


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766