Biola Journalism Students Publish Book on Migration Issues

“Beyond the Wall” showcases student writing and photography in the form of narrative journalism

Aug. 16, 2017 By Jenna Loumagne

As local school leaders, city officials and lawmakers in Sacramento debate what to do about migrants given changing federal policies, Biola University journalism students recently authored a new book analyzing the problem. The book, “Beyond the Wall: Migrants, Migration, and the Border,” was released in May and will be available for purchase in October.


Students incorporated in-depth narrative journalism and documentary photojournalism to produce a 170 page book. The 16 students who co-authored the book spent 14 weeks, as part of a class, scouring Southern California and the Tijuana border with notebooks and cameras following the stories of those who are suffering, those who are helping, and those who wrestle with “what now?”


“This is the kind of deep-thinking journalism that gives students preparation for the best multimedia journalism being done by the largest metro daily newspapers in the country and such storied in-depth news magazines as The Atlantic and New York Times Magazine,” said Michael Longinow, professor of journalism.


“Beyond the Wall” is the sixth book published through Biola Avenue Press, an imprint of the Department of Media, Journalism and Public Relations. It joins a growing literature analyzing the implications of public policy, effects on education, labor, the economy, and the ministry and social service interventions rising to help those left vulnerable in the shifting winds of change surrounding the Tijuana border.


“This project puts students face-to-face with those on the margins of society and whose stories are either ignored or told badly in mainstream media,” said Longinow. “By learning to see, to hear, to experience what they thought wasn't there, these students become changed people, better prepared to find stories others miss.”


The foreword is written by longtime investigative reporter Norberto Santana, publisher of The Voice of OC, and a longtime projects reporter for the Orange County Register. Biola alumni also contributed to the book.


Journalism alumna Amber Amaya (’12) wrote a book segment about her grant-funded work with teens in the East Coachella Valley region where migrants from Mexico are a struggling but significant population. Alumnus David Benavides (’99) founded KidWorks in Santa Ana and is a longtime city councilman. He wrote about his life as a son of migrants and his role as a local leader, mentor and guide to migrant families in his city.


The project, one of several capstone experiences offered to students in the Department of Media, Journalism and Public Relations, was overseen by Longinow and Tamara Welter, chair of the department. Very few undergraduate journalism programs at universities across the U.S. offer students long form journalism opportunities targeting cross-cultural topics in quite this way, according to Longinow. The book was designed and formatted completely by students.


“Working on Beyond the Wall was an incredible learning experience for so many reasons, not the least of which are all the ways we had to step out of the classroom and actually do 'real' journalism,” said senior Anna Warner. “I think one of the biggest learning curves was figuring out how to balance journalistic objectivity with Christian compassion. It was something we all had to wrestle with … The project was definitely a challenge, yet so worthwhile. Ultimately, I think this project was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had at Biola so far.”


Students in the project team were assigned either narrative or photo chapters. Students included Aili Acone-Chavez, Dayna Bayne, Alex Bell, Dempsey Floria, Jessica Goddard, Max Heilman, Molli Kaptein, Jehn Kubiak, Rebecca Mitchell, Jennifer Oetzell, David Oh, Jubilee Pham Xuan, Sarah Pineda, Anastasia, Waltschew, Anna Warner, and Alyssa Yee.


The book is being sold on A website created for the project was launched earlier this year with students’ thoughts on their journey along with images they collected.


An official launch is planned for October, which will be an outreach to legislative representatives across Southern California, leaders of nonprofit organizations, ministries, and government agencies that deal with immigration policy or serve or care for migrants.


Photos courtesy of Aili Acone-Chavez (top photo), Alyssa Yee (bottom photo), and Jennifer Oetzell (middle photo).


For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, manager of media relations, at (562) 777-4061 or


Post a Comment

Your email will not be published as part of your comment.

Biola University
13800 Biola Ave. La Mirada, CA 90639