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Media Center > Press Room > Press Release
New program to mobilize higher education institutions to support refugee resettlement
Publication Date: May 2, 2023
Publication Location: Washington, DC
Contact: Abby Henson | [email protected]
World Learning and partners are pleased to announce the launch of an ambitious, three-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of State that aims at bringing U.S. colleges and universities more deeply into the refugee resettlement process.
Supporting Higher Education in Refugee Resettlement (SHERR) is a collaboration led by World Learning, a Washington, DC-based education and exchange nonprofit, in partnership with the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, Welcome.US, a national initiative to mobilize Americans to welcome those seeking refuge in the U.S., and the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), one of ten nationally recognized refugee resettlement agencies.
Funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the initiative will build the capacity of higher education institutions to directly support refugee resettlement efforts. The goal is ultimately to improve outcomes for newcomers, especially during their first 90 days in the United States.
“Higher education institutions represent robust ecosystems unto themselves, but many will require guidance to understand the needs of refugees so they can provide meaningful support in the resettlement process,” says World Learning CEO Carol Jenkins. “This is what the SHERR program aims to do.” Over the past 15 months, her organization and its higher education arm, the School for International Training, have helped to pilot a broad community-based refugee resettlement program in southern Vermont that has successfully welcomed more than 130 refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Guatemala, and other countries.
SHERR will work with Welcome.US’s Welcome Campus Network to create and strengthen avenues for higher education institutions to engage with the nation’s 10 national resettlement agencies. Through the Welcome Campus Network, Welcome.US amplifies the work of higher education institutions in welcoming and supporting newly arrived refugees, which includes providing scholarships, housing units, community sponsorship, and pathways to education to thousands of refugees and their families, as well as other acts of welcome.
“These ‘engagement pathways’ will allow Welcome Campus Network members to identify how they can participate using their existing strengths and resources,” Welcome.US CEO Nazanin Ash says. “Colleges and universities will be able to learn how to contribute across as many different areas of resettlement support as they are able or willing.”
Specially designed toolkits, curricula, briefings, webinars, virtual workshops, and a major online portal will help institutions find the right resources to help them meet a range of refugee needs.
“Our innovation is developing resources, organized and grouped by varying types of interventions, that can be accessed by higher education institutions and that have been validated by ECDC through our perspective as a national resettlement agency and consultative engagement with other resettlement agencies” says Dr. Tsehaye Teferra, ECDC’s president and CEO. “Colleges and universities are well positioned to provide services in a number of ways—education, job training, housing, health care—if they have the resources on how.”
Ensuring that colleges and universities can both learn from and share with one another will be crucial for success. “Network members will have access to communities of practice to be able to share promising and effective practices, coordinate efforts with resettlement agencies in their areas, and exchange other relevant information,” says Miriam Feldblum, co-founder and executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance. “There are nearly 3,700 not-for-profit two- and four-year colleges and universities across the United States, which opens exciting opportunities to pilot various forms of higher ed engagement that can be adapted and scaled to ultimately benefit refugees, institutions, and the broader community alike.”
For example, World Learning’s School for International Training offered up to three months of temporary housing on its southern Vermont campus, housing more than 90 refugees at one time, while providing English language and cultural orientation. At the same time, partner ECDC provided case management on site, while nearly 200 community volunteers, or co-sponsors, assisted the refugees with day-to-day needs such as transportation, medical appointments, and connecting with community members and key resources. The consolidated services gave refugees an opportunity to access vital assistance and rest after often-harrowing evacuations from their countries, including those who fled Afghanistan in August 2021 when the Taliban re-took control of the country.
Various types of partnerships have been formed between schools and nonprofits around the country in support of refugees, and a number of initiatives, such as Every Campus A Refuge and the Refugee Resettlement Initiative of the National Association of System Heads, support the involvement of higher education in refugee resettlement. These efforts have provided a range of services and resources to help refugees, such as academic scholarships, housing, home furnishings, language training, and legal support.
These examples are a response to refugee advocates, including refugees themselves, who have called for welcoming newcomers in ways that go beyond traditional models to increase community engagement and support sustainable resettlement. Federal agencies responsible for resettlement, such as the Department of State’s Bureau for Populations, Resettlement, and Migration, have urged the development of new partnerships and pointed to innovative programming that creates new pathways for engagement as a necessity.
“As the United States rebuilds and modernizes our refugee resettlement program, and responds to new and entrenched global crises, there is a clear need and exciting opportunity to expand the partners involved in domestic resettlement. By leveraging the unique assets of higher education institutions and capitalizing on their roles as inclusive, welcoming leaders in communities, this new initiative will enable colleges and universities to strengthen and enrich our resettlement landscape,” says Sarah Cross, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
“The SHERR program is an exciting new partnership that aims to develop creative, substantive, and sustainable resources and networks to help refugees start a new life,” says World Learning’s Jenkins.
World Learning Inc. is a global organization made up of World Learning, a global development and exchange nonprofit organization; The Experiment in International Living, the nation’s most experienced provider of intercultural exchange programs abroad and virtual for high school students; and School for International Training, offering accredited undergraduate study abroad programs through SIT Study Abroad, including the comparative International Honors Program, and internationally focused master’s degrees, certificate programs, and a doctorate through SIT Graduate Institute. For more than 90 years, the organization has delivered international education, cultural exchanges, and sustainable development. For more information, visit worldlearning.org.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings college and university presidents and chancellors together on the immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities, and nation. They work to advance just, forward-looking immigration policies and practices at the federal, state, and campus levels that are consistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants and the academic values of equity and openness. The Alliance is composed of over 550 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
The Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. (ECDC) has been a national resettlement agency since 1991 and has resettled more than 66,000 individuals. ECDC has a network of 22 sites for resettlement and placement and two community partners. Of these, six are ECDC’s branch offices, and the remaining are independent, Community-Based Organization (CBO) affiliates. ECDC regularly shares ideas and best practices with other national resettlement agencies and partners across its network. ECDC is dedicated to assisting refugees and immigrants to lead lives of dignity, attain self-sufficiency, and integrate successfully into their new communities. For more information, visit ECDC.
The mission of Welcome.US is to unleash the desire and capacity of Americans to welcome newcomers and help them thrive. We operate on the evidence that direct participation with newcomers transforms both the welcomer and those being welcomed. By making it easier for Americans from all walks of life to participate in the work of welcoming — and telling their stories — we are building a movement that celebrates America’s welcoming spirit by providing an opportunity to serve for all who seek to welcome. Our diverse community of Welcomers reaches across real and perceived divides to meet the needs of newcomers more effectively. In partnership with local and national resettlement agencies, diaspora organizations and leaders, refugees, community sponsorship groups, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based institutions, veterans, universities, four former Presidents and four former First Ladies, Welcome.US is a single point of entry for Americans who want to get involved and support those who are starting new lives in the United States. To learn more about Welcome.US, please visit welcome.us.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) promotes American values by providing protection, easing suffering, addressing the immediate needs of persecuted and forcibly displaced people around the world and seeking longer term solutions to displacement. We advocate for their protection, deliver humanitarian assistance and lead on humanitarian policy and diplomacy, coordinating with other donors, building partnerships with multilateral organizations and non-governmental organizations, and promoting best practices in humanitarian response. In turn, this work creates goodwill toward the United States and the American people ultimately enhancing our national security.