Office of the Provost
Provost’s Message: Supporting Refugees at UConn
Dear UConn Community,
As Afghan refugees continue to arrive in the United States, including the 300 who will soon be welcomed in Connecticut, many of us may wonder what we can each do to help. At the University of Connecticut, we have a number of partnerships, programs, and organizations that support those who have been forced to leave their homes from around the world, with Afghanistan just the most recent example. The Human Rights Institute, Office of Global Affairs, School of Law’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, School of Social Work, and UConn Health, for example, each provide unique, collaborative opportunities to support refugees and asylum-seekers through experiential learning, internships and practica, or clinics.
One of the most immediate ways to help Afghan refugees is to partner with refugee support organizations. This can include both volunteering with and providing donations to organizations that assist refugees. UConn is home to the Huskies for Refugees student group, which is actively identifying opportunities to help Afghan refugees. One of the leading resettlement organizations in Connecticut is Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, also known as IRIS. They offer a variety of ways to welcome refugees through community sponsorship groups and volunteering or interning at their main office in New Haven or satellite office in Hartford (to open in October). In Storrs-Mansfield, the IRIS community co-sponsor group is Quiet Corner Refugee Resettlement (QCRR). To inquire about volunteering, email firstname.lastname@example.org, providing a brief description of your interests, skills or experience and general availability.
Another key action is to learn. UConn is one of few institutions with a human rights major. Many of our faculty across a broad array of disciplines bring a human rights focus to their scholarship and their classes. Students can take a variety of courses that will deepen their understanding of the complexity of events and circumstances that force refugees to leave their homes. We also organize public programming to provide a range of perspectives on refugee matters, including two key upcoming events. On September 23 Global Affairs will host “From Afghanistan to Connecticut: Afghan Perspectives on Forced Migration,” with details at https://s.uconn.edu/refugee-panel. On September 29, American Studies, Middle East Studies, and Asian and Asian American Studies will host “Afghanistan and the Course of U.S. Empire,” with details at https://s.uconn.edu/afghanistan-empire. The Benton Museum of Art is also currently hosting an exhibition, “Immigrant Eyes,” featuring the stories of immigrants in the state through the photography of Joe Standart.
Additionally, UConn can leverage, and has, its institutional resources and networks to support refugees. Through the Scholars at Risk program, we regularly host scholars from other countries where their research and teaching put their safety at risk. UConn is also a member of the New University in Exile Consortium, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, and the Open Society University Network. The Office of Global Affairs and its Human Rights Institute will be reaching out to academic and administrative units to explore opportunities to expand these types of efforts to broaden our capacity to support refugees, including the potential to host Afghan refugee students and scholars at UConn.
These events can also affect members of our community at a personal level. Our Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the cultural centers and the Dean of Students Office are tremendous resources for support. Another source of community and action can be found in faith groups, a listing of which can be found on the UConn Faith website. SHaW is also available for students to seek counseling and therapeutic activities, and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available through HR for counseling and referrals for employees.
One other way that we can contribute is by sharing our knowledge and experiences with each other and our communities. Many of our scholars present their research regularly through invited talks across the state, nationally, and globally. Students intern or volunteer in local community groups and agencies that work with refugees and asylum seekers, including conducting research or doing community needs assessments as part of that work. For example, through the Center for International Social Work Studies, student interns provide support for Hartford-based refugee initiatives. There are also numerous examples of community-engaged practices across UConn, including UConn Law’s Asylum & Human Rights Clinic, in which law students, working under faculty supervision, represent people who have fled from persecution and seek asylum in the United States. The Asylum and Human Rights Clinic collaborates closely with faculty and students at the School of Social Work and UConn Health, and has developed an innovative program in which interdisciplinary teams conduct week-long service trips to assist detained asylum seekers.
Our mission as an engaged, public research university includes sharing opportunities to help lift and support all, particularly those most vulnerable and in need. As a global university, we embrace this chance to lend our knowledge, our energy, and our resources to welcoming these newcomers in a spirit of solidarity. We encourage you to get involved and help us make an impact individually and collectively. We are always inspired by the ways Huskies rise to the occasion.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vice President for Global Affairs