Student Spotlight: Paige Censale ’27

Paige Censale, a first-year student and member of the Resumed Undergraduate Education community, depicts the lives of immigrants, refugees and others through compassionate and informed documentary filmmaking.


Blaine, Washington


International and Public Affairs  

As part of her final project for Professor Ieva Jusionyte's Life and Politics on the U.S.-Mexico Border course, first-year International and Public Affairs (IAPA) concentrator Paige Censale presented her experiences in immigration journalism and ethical storytelling to several classes. Censale is highly familiar with this subject. Before enrolling at Brown University, she spent four years capturing stories of migration on the U.S.-Mexico border and in Europe.

Born in El Paso and raised in Washington state near the Canadian border, Censale became drawn to advocacy during high school. "I co-founded a student-led organization working to address gun violence related to school shootings," she said. "We led our city's largest student-run protest, spoke at school board meetings, and lobbied our members of Congress in Washington, D.C."

After graduating high school, Censale wasn't sure what she wanted to study, so she decided to initially forgo college and, instead, focus on the issue she was most curious about: the border. 

Censale moved in with her grandmother, who still lived in El Paso, where she began volunteering for the non-profit Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. "I had no special skills; I just knew that I was ready to learn, and I had nothing but time to figure out what they needed me to do." After two months, she was hired as the agency's communications coordinator, where she served as a videographer, graphic designer, photographer and social media manager.

"It was 'sink or swim.' They had high standards and threw challenges at me, and I studied YouTube tutorials to learn how to be better at everything," said Censale. "I documented the agency as staff was getting people out of detention centers and into asylum and securing their citizenship papers. I traveled to Juarez, Mexico, up to three times a week to capture the team's work." Mentored by attorneys on her team who prioritized dignity over sensationalism, Censale learned how to tell stories ethically and compassionately.

Brown’s Open Curriculum gives me the freedom to dive right into the subjects that make me a more informed journalist. It is serving as my foundation to platform underrepresented voices and to destigmatize the borders constructed between us.

Paige Censale International and Public Affairs, Class of 2027
Paige Censale ’27

After two years working in El Paso, Censale moved to Germany with a U.S. State Department Fellowship, Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. During the fellowship's internship phase, she interned for a search-and-rescue organization, Mission Lifeline, where she documented a Greek refugee camp, Moria, where Afghan and Syrian refugees lived after fleeing their native lands. 

After documenting stories of immigration for four years, Censale envisioned a career as a documentary journalist but felt compelled to learn more. "I wanted to understand the historical context of how and why the world is the way it is. I felt like reading more and taking university classes would allow me to ask better questions, and those questions could turn into future films," she said. "Brown’s Open Curriculum gives me the freedom to dive right into the subjects that make me a more informed journalist. It is serving as my foundation to platform underrepresented voices and to destigmatize the borders constructed between us.” 

Now a full-time Brown undergraduate, Censale also works as the digital and communications coordinator for the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a leading refugee organization at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Haitian Bridge Alliance's advocacy stretches across the borderlands and into the White House. 

Censale hopes that students will learn the key lessons she herself has learned: "Make your own way, identify and develop your own skills, and lean into what comes naturally. Be bold, and develop an aspect of yourself that makes it hard for people to forget about you." 

She called herself a "visual storyteller" and added, "If I don't have to write an essay, I won't. I think videos and other presentations often reach a broader audience, while essays are typically read only by the professor and rarely leave the classroom." Another final project Censale created for Introduction to Africana Studies is a video essay about Natural Hair that premiered at the Brown Film Festival in New York City and will be screened again in Beverly Hills in June.

Post-graduation plans are too distant to contemplate, said Censale, who takes life year-by-year. "For now, I am grateful to be at Brown, which gives me time to read, study, and immerse myself in so many opportunities. "I appreciate the University's learning environment and especially its supportive faculty. They have already made me a better storyteller, and I have so much more to share." 

To learn more about Censale's projects, visit her website.