February 28 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

There is a global war for professional talent due to labor shortages spurred by an aging population, low birth rates, and changes in workforce needs induced by technological advancements. Higher education institutions have long served as engines of economic development and workforce preparation, and now they are having to contend with declining enrollment rates. Immigrant-origin students (i.e., first- and second-generation students) represent a significant source for current and future student bodies and the workforce. Substantial barriers often hinder the recruitment and retention of these students, including lack of information about the educational system in the US, English language proficiency, and documentation, along with financial constraints, and difficulty navigating life in a new country. It is critical that higher education institutions are aware of immigrant-origin students’ needs and that there is an active commitment to building and sustaining an infrastructure that facilitates the recruitment and retention of these students.

This webinar explores promising models within the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) systems that enable immigrant-origin students to achieve integration at the academic, social, professional, and communal levels. These high-performing institutions build and maintain coordinated and integrated community-wide support systems that address immigrant-origin students’ needs through services, which include tutoring, academic guidance and support, mentoring, coaching, case management, and proactive advisement.

Keynote Speaker

Diya Abdo

Diya Abdo

Lincoln Financial Professor, English and Creative Writing, Guilford College

Diya Abdo, PhD, is the Lincoln Financial Professor of English at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. A second-generation Palestinian refugee born and raised in Jordan, Abdo’s teaching, research, and scholarship focuses on Arab women writers and Arab and Islamic feminisms. Her book American Refuge: True Stories of the Refugee Experience was selected as a North Carolina Reads 2024 Book. In 2015, Abdo founded Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR), which advocates for housing refugee families on college and university campus grounds and supporting them in their resettlement. The flagship chapter at Guilford College, now one of several ECAR campuses, has hosted nearly 90 refugees thus far. Abdo is the recipient of several awards, including the J.M. Kaplan Fund’s Innovation Prize (2021). She sits on the advisory board of the Community Sponsorship Hub.

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Presenters

Cynthia Nayeli Carvajal

Cynthia Nayeli Carvajal

Director, Undocumented and Immigrant Student Programs, City University of New York

Cynthia Nayeli Carvajal, PhD, is a scholar and practitioner at the intersection of immigration and education. Originally from Zapopan, Mexico, Carvajal immigrated to East Los Angeles, California, at the age of five, where she navigated K-12 education as an undocumented immigrant. Her personal and professional goals are grounded in her experience as a formerly undocumented immigrant, student, and community member for twelve years of her life.

Carvajal currently serves as the inaugural director for Undocumented and Immigrant Student Programs at City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s largest urban public university. This position is the first of its kind in New York State and was created to support undocumented and immigrant students across all the CUNY campuses.

 

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Tsveta Dobreva

Tsveta Dobreva

Immigrant Integration Fellow

Tsveta Dobreva is a third-year sociology PhD student at the University at Albany. Her research interests include immigration, race, education, urban sociology, and belonging. Dobreva’s current research project looks to understand the role that skin tone and racial differences play in children of immigrants’ educational experiences and sense of belonging at school, in their community, and nationally. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Dobreva worked at a New Jersey-based legal organization assisting Darfurian asylum seekers in navigating the immigration system to obtain refugee status, develop language skills, enroll in college, and find jobs. In her native Bulgaria, she worked with an international NGO that was actively involved on a community level in assisting asylum seekers with their economic, social, and civic integration.

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Guillermo Martinez

Guillermo Martinez

Deputy Director & Intergovernmental Liaison, Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy

Guillermo Martinez is the deputy director and intergovernmental liaison for the Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy. He brings over 20 years of significant leadership, management, and communications experience in both the nonprofit and government sectors. During his time in the New York State Legislature, he served as the director of policy development for the New York State Assembly Task Force on New Americans and legislative and communications director for the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, having served in that role as the longest tenured staffer in the organizations 35-year history. In those capacities, he helped research, draft, and negotiate over 200 pieces of legislation that are now state law, including programs such as the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute, the SUNY Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, the codifying of the Office of New Americans, the Immigration Services Fraud Prevention Act, the Idle-Free School Zone Act, Geriatric Mental Health Act, the Undocumented Immigrant In-State-Tuition Act, the School Energy Efficiency Collaborative Act, the establishing of the New York Latino Research and Resources Network (NYLARNet), and dozens of other laws, including consumer protection measures addressing online privacy, disaster preparedness, protecting children with disabilities, and the elderly. Prior to his time in the legislature, Martinez served as director of communications and legislative affairs for the Council of Community Services of New York State and worked at SUNY Oneonta’s migrant education program (ESCORT) assisting migrant farmworkers with the educational needs of their children in a region covering 23 states.

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Dina Refki

Dina Refki

Executive Director, Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy

Dina Refki is the director of the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society (CWGCS) at the University at Albany. Refki studies and researches the interplay of gender with institutional structures in the US and international context. She applies gender mainstreaming and budgeting analysis from transnational perspectives. Prior to assuming leadership at CWGCS in 2009, she held different positions at the Center, including as director of the Immigrant Women & State Policy Program, which facilitated interagency collaboration, promoted dialogues with civil society and immigrant women at the state level, and worked to identify and address barriers to the integration of immigrant women in the social, economic, and political fabric of local communities. Refki studies the challenges of migration, the barriers facing immigrant women and their families, and the structural changes needed to better respond to the needs of immigrant women.

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Ali Schaeffing

Ali Schaeffing

Assistant Professor of Geography, and Director, Service Learning & Community Engagement, Russell Sage College

Ali Schaeffing, PhD, is an assistant professor of geography and director of service learning and community engagement at Russell Sage College. Schaeffing’s research involves critical development studies evaluating the effectiveness of female empowerment programs in Bangladesh and has been supported by a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship and a Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship in Public Policy. Her current research seeks to understand and improve refugees’ access to higher education in the US. In 2021, Schaeffing led Russell Sage College in becoming the first Every Campus a Refuge chapter in New York State. Siena College and Hudson Valley Community College also joined this growing national movement, which calls on higher education institutions to directly support refugee families in partnership with local resettlement agencies. Schaeffing and her colleagues piloted the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrant-Albany’s Good Neighbor Team program, leading teams of faculty, staff, and students to provide direct support to recently arrived refugee families. Schaeffing has served on the West Hill Refugee Welcome Center and BirthNet boards. Schaeffing lives with her husband and daughter in the South End in Albany, New York.

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Catherine Willis

Catherine Willis

Every Campus a Refuge Coordinator, Hudson Valley Community College, SUNY

Catherine Willis has a PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an adjunct professor of sociology at the State University of New York’s Hudson Valley Community College. She serves as Hudson Valley Community College’s Every Campus a Refuge coordinator. In her role, she supports refugee resettlement and community education while building community partnerships. Willis has extensive experience in community-based research and supporting student engagement in the community.

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