Learning, Teaching,
and Community-Building with Refugees

November 6, 2020

12:00pm-1:30pm (US Eastern Time)

This roundtable brings together scholars, activists, and NGO volunteers to discuss how to learn from and with refugees, teach about refugees, and engage with refugee communities. What are the strategies for resisting the racialization and marginalization of refugees and for developing an appreciation of refugee experiences, knowledge, and contributions to societies? What interventions in research, in the classroom, and in community organizing are required to promote ethical engagements with refugees and to maximize benefits flowing from these engagements to refugees and their communities?


CHRISTIAN WILHELM is the manager of the international master programs of the Department of Social Sciences at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. During the so-called "refugee crisis" in 2015 he initiated the opening of the German-Turkish GeT MA program for refugees. This created a unique opportunity for refugees to access the German university system. In addition to the opening of the program, he developed additional support services for refugee students and linked the project with other initiatives of the university.

DAVID J. (SANDY) MARSHALL is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Elon University. His research focuses on the everyday spaces of children and youth whose lives have been impacted by conflict and displacement. Situated at the intersection of political and cultural geography, his work examines issues of trauma, memory, humanitarianism, and religion. Though the bulk of his work is situated in Palestine, he has worked with young people and refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, South Africa, as well as refugees and migrants in the US. Having worked with youth organizations in the Middle East and refugee resettlement programs in the US, he has sought out opportunities to engage with community-based organizations working with migrant and refugee populations in his undergraduate teaching and research mentoring, such as the Center for New North Carolinians in North Carolina and Ishkashitaa Refugee Network in Arizona. More recently, he has developed a partnership with the African American Cultural Arts and History Center in Alamance County North Carolina, documenting and mapping other forms of displacement, namely the historic displacement of black businesses from Burlington, NC.

LIZZIE RUSSLER is a senior Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to starting at Carolina, Lizzie spent a year as an exchange student in Switzerland through Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program, where she witnessed firsthand the unfolding of Europe’s 2015 refugee crisis. As a Contemporary European Studies major and a Sustainability Studies minor, Lizzie is interested in the intersection of human rights and climate change. Throughout her undergraduate career, Lizzie has worked with the Center for European Studies’ Working Group on Refugees, Europe, and Service Learning, and she has done extensive research on climate migration, environmental justice issues, and climate resiliency. Lizzie has also worked directly with urban refugees through a grassroots non-profit, Hope of Children and Women, run by refugees for refugees in Kampala, Uganda. With experience in the non-profit, private, and public sectors, Lizzie believes in multi-stakeholder, rights-based approaches to solve the world’s most pressing issues ranging from climate change to migration issues to human rights abuses.

DR. DIYA ABDO is the Director of UNCG's Center for New North Carolinians (CNNC). A second-generation Palestinian refugee, born and raised in Jordan, Dr. Abdo's teaching, research, and scholarship focus on Arab women writers and Arab and Islamic feminisms. She has also published poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. Her public essays focus on the intersection of gender, political identity, and vocation. In 2015, Dr. Abdo founded the Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR) initiative which advocates for housing refugee families on college and university campus grounds and assisting them in resettlement. The flagship chapter at Guilford College, now one of several ECAR campuses, has hosted 60 refugees so far – 29 of them children – from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC, Venezuela, and Colombia. Dr. Abdo is the recipient of Campus Compact and Brown University’s Swearer Center’s 2019 Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award. She was named a finalist in the Arab Hope Makers Award (2018) and, along with ECAR, has received the Gulf South Summit’s 2017 Outstanding Service-Learning Collaboration in Higher Education Award and The Washington Center’s 2017 Civic Engagement in Higher Education Award. She has been making presentations about ECAR far and wide, including at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

MEAGAN CLAWAR - In my first few years with RCP, I witnessed social determinants of health at play in every aspect of life for RCP members. From not being able to access health services due to inadequate or non-existent language services, to families being excluded from decision making tables in local institutions and government – all of these experiences deepened my understanding of how the social determinants of health affect local communities health and consequently, livelihoods. Witnessing these experiences alongside family after family, lit a fire in me to identify unique ways to address these issues at the root – the systems level. Eager to understand systems level change strategies, I continued my studies at UNC and received my Masters of Public Health.There, I was able to gain familiarity with the frameworks, institutional savvy, and management skills needed to continue to tackle these big picture issues.

My role has me negotiating language access at local institutions, partnering with community leaders to ensure their voices and communities have a seat at the decision making tables, implementing program evaluation strategies, and pursuing partnerships with local organizations to create accessible programs and services that families request—all with an eye towards addressing social determinants of health.