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How I Got Here and the Research to Prove the Importance of Higher Education for Refugees

Refugee higher education is not something I got into until I was 40. I started my PhD program with an idea that I wanted to research and study a topic so compelling that it would make me get up every morning with the desire to keep going. But it was more than just the desire to finish the program as quickly as possible. There's a saying in higher ed - "The best dissertation is a done dissertation". The other one is - "Your goal is to finish. Your goal is not to change the world."

Sorry, no. Just no. I disagree. I've read some really insignificant and incomprehensible dissertations. If we're not researching to change the world, why are we doing it in the first place? I'm not about wasting my time.

So, the dissertation got written after a lot of interviewing and transcribing and coding the words of resettled refugees in the United States. Amazing things were discovered, like personal identity is the #1 thing that motivates resettled refugees in their acculturation in the United States. 

Read it here: The Post-Secondary Experiences in the Acculturation of Resettled Refugees in the United States



Or Why we Have to Build with the Future in Mind

When you think about education in a refugee camp, you might think of it as a luxury...something that comes after ensuring the safety, housing, food, and water needs of the population in crisis. One of the things I learned, though, is that education is very often the thing that provides safety. The primary and secondary school classroom may be where the student gets their one main meal a day. Schools typically have latrines, and water, and they teach students about safety.

For adults, schools link them with necessary services - psychosocial support, health services, and guide them in providing options for their families. 

Thus, when we create higher education for displaced students, we must think of it as a critical function of the implementing partners on the ground. Because they can't do it all themselves, they need good options from educational providers who know what they're doing.

Scalability means that processes that no longer work are discarded in favor of processes that allow agencies to duplicate a model in other areas. Scalability means that the site has the capacity for growth, and the support mechanisms behind the scenes create processes that can be multiplied as support teams grow.

Bespoke solutions should be one-offs. Scalability calls for policies and procedures, but ones that are not so restrictive that they back an agency or partner into a corner. 

Check out my research on this topic here:

Distance Learning, Scalability, And Refugee Camps

Tara Ross

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