Aaron Yore-VanOosterhout, Ph.D.

Research Manager

Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.” – Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Contact Aaron about research projects and prison-based education.

Aaron is available to discuss qualitative research methodologies (i.e., how best to encourage people to use their own voice in research), prison-based postsecondary education, and Latin American and U.S. immigration history.


Aaron Yore-VanOosterhout designs and carries out community-based research to help nonprofits, schools, and other organizations better serve people. Since joining the Johnson Center in 2017, he has been honored to work with organizations providing housing to people experiencing homelessness, educators and administrators at K–12 schools, and universities providing postsecondary education in prison, among many others.

For reasons both personal and academic, Aaron is particularly passionate about working with incarcerated people, as well as those who have recently arrived in the United States. Both groups of people are among the most exploited and vulnerable in our society. Both are subject to complex systems designed to exclude them from full participation in their communities — to disenfranchise them and prevent them from exercising their political voice, even as their plight is used to gain political advantage.

Aaron has worked toward carceral system reform for more than a decade, including as an independent consultant for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, where he investigated long-term incarceration in state correctional facilities. He is currently working with colleagues at the Johnson Center and Grand Valley State University to develop a postsecondary prison education program at the university. Aaron also serves as a research consultant for Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates, a nonprofit immigration legal office in Holland, Mich.

Aaron has a doctorate in history from Michigan State University, with a focus on race, mutual-aid societies, and anti-state rebellion in 19th-century Mexico. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Spanish from the University of Notre Dame.

Related Articles
Wed April 10
The Office of Management and Budget recently updated the way federal race and ethnicity data is collected — a great step forward for visibility of communities nationwide, but prompting significant concern for problems ahead.
Wed January 17
The U.S. Census Bureau has proposed updating and expanding federal protocols for collecting data on race and ethnicity. If adopted, the changes will impact nonprofits, foundations, and more.
Wed January 17
Leaders across philanthropy, higher ed, and government are wrestling with the traditional use of recidivism as a marker of success, and are considering alternative measures.
In the Media