Students are part of and often central to everything we do. By providing students opportunities to serve as rapporteurs during our symposia, as oral historians while interviewing refugees, and as researchers when drafting expert affidavits, students enhance their understanding of the rich relationship between academic work and service, hone their vocational and professional skills, and reflect on their role in the world while expanding their perspectives of the world.
Forced Migration Student Internships
The forced migration student internships, part of the broader Faith-Based Internships, is one component of ORL’s Religion and Resettlement Project (RRP). Student interns will work each summer at resettlement agencies and offices to increase our collaboration and partnership and develop their own profession, vocation, and leadership skills. The interns will work integrally within their host organizations but will also conduct oral history projects for the ORL’s developing archive. This summer we funded twelve students to work at resettlement offices and refugee-supporting organizations for eight weeks spending 20% of their time collecting oral histories and two additional students to collect oral histories full-time for four weeks. These internships serve as a key way to develop partnerships with national organizations. We are building a cohort of campus leaders and future professionals as the students enhance their understanding of the relationship between academic work and service, hone their vocational and professional development, and respond to the world around them while reflecting with peers and mentors.
In 2019, 12 student interns from Princeton University worked at resettlement agencies along the East Coast, including Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services in DC, Catholic Charities in Boston, MA, Hearts and Homes for Refugees in Westchester, NY and New American Pathways in Atlanta, GA. These internships increased RRP’s collaboration and partnership with these organizations, while also providing students the opportunity to develop their own profession, vocation and leadership skills. As part of these internships, students were also expected to collect oral histories in their local areas.
The Religion and Resettlement Symposium, a major initiative of RRP, brings around 40 refugees, resettlement workers, and faith leaders to campus biannually to reflect on the role of religion in displacement, resettlement, and integration. Roughly twelve students serve as rapporteurs during panels and small and large group discussions and as oral historians by interviewing resettlement office directors about examples of how religion plays a role in refugees’ lives as they resettle in the US.
Oral History Project
RRP’s Oral History Project provides a major opportunity for students to develop their deep listening skills and to expand their perspectives. Our oral history advisor, Dr. Melissa Borja, a professor and oral historian at the University of Michigan who has worked intimately with displaced communities has trained 37 students in oral history methods. This training was specifically designed to address and support refugee narrators and student interviewers for our particular project. Fourteen of these students, as part of our summer internship program, conducted over 80 interviews this summer. We will continue to train students in oral history methods, and they will conduct interviews with 30 participants and panelists at our upcoming symposium in October and throughout the next two years throughout the US.
The Asylum Project
The central objective of the Asylum Project is to help asylum seekers in their legal process. Currently, the project is organized, driven, and staffed by students. As an ongoing project, the student team plans to create a database of scholars willing to write expert testimony for future asylum seekers. Other outcomes of this project include educating students about the asylum process, about affidavit-drafting methods, and opportunities to use their scholarship to serve others. This project also demonstrates the value of the university and its ability to harness its resources to respond to humanitarian crises
The annual Pumpkin Carving! event brings together roughly 80 refugees of all ages and 40 Princeton students, faculty, and staff. Co-sponsored by the Sophomore class and Lewis Center for the Arts, we invite refugees living in New Jersey resettled and supported by Catholic Charities in Camden, Interfaith Rise in Highland Park, Welcome Home in Jersey City, and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Trenton. Represent a plurality of ethnicities and religions, these newcomers ranged in age from two to seventy and had lived in the US between two weeks and fifteen years. We also host refugee students at the dining hall and offer a campus tour.
Two groups of 13 incoming freshmen work with two of our local partners around the intersection of faith and forced migration. The groups typically spend one day on campus being trained on what defines refugee status in the US with an overview of the domestic resettlement program. They spend another day at Catholic Charities in Camden and/or Interfaith Rise in Highland Park learning about the organizations’ resettlement/asylum programs and volunteering on a relevant project.