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Students to meet, interview refugees for class project on immigration, cultural diversity

NEWPORT, R.I. (Sept. 22, 2016) – On the next two Saturdays, 22 Salve Regina University students will be meeting and interviewing clients from Providence’s Refugee Dream Center, after which they will transcribe and edit their interviews, and send the finished product back to the Center for its use as part of a class project designed to expand students’ understanding of cultural diversity.
The project blends tenets of the university’s mission with experiential learning and community engagement. The students are enrolled in Dr. Chad Raymond’s UNV 101, a university seminar designed for first-semester students in which Raymond is inspiring them to take a broader look at immigration, which is one of the Mercy critical concerns. Salve Regina is a Mercy institution and the university seminar is a core requirement designed to refine students’ skills of inquiry, analysis and communication.
“The purpose of the project is to get first-semester students interacting in the community with people whose cultural backgrounds and life experiences are very different from their own,” said Raymond, who is chairman of the Department of Cultural, Environmental and Global Studies. “This interaction benefits the Refugee Dream Center by providing it with documentation that it can use to inform others about its services.”
The class will be split into two for the site visits and Raymond will conduct a debriefing with them after the interviews. 
“Getting students out into the community flips the standard curricular model on its head,” Raymond said. “Traditionally, students sit in classrooms in their required general education courses for the first two years and then do internships, practicums, and research at the end of their college experience as part of their majors—despite lots of research showing that these kinds of experiences are very effective at engaging students.”
Omar Bah, founder of the Refugee Dream Center and himself a refugee and torture survivor from The Gambia in West Africa, said the project is quite timely for students’ learning needs.
“One does not have to leave this country to learn and know about other countries and other people," Bah said. "There are refugees next door who come from every corner of the world. Therefore, such projects are invaluable as they expose students to global cultures, histories and general understanding. This will foster tolerance and better opportunity to supporting refugees in a more culturally competent way.”
Bah said the local refugee community also stands to benefit from this project as they would be meeting new people, which enhances their efforts toward integration in a new country. “I really thank Salve Regina University for this initiative and for partnering with the Refugee Dream Center on this invaluable initiative,” he said.