AACRAO partner AICE, the Association of International Credential Evaluators sponsored the International Luncheon at the 107th AACRAO Annual Meeting addressing the topic of Education in Crisis: Supporting Access to Education for Vulnerable Persons. AICE representative Leah McCormack welcomed attendees and shared AICE’s support and commitment to the topic. Moderator Julia Funaki welcomed panelists: Dr. Keith David Watenpaugh, Professor and Director of Human Rights Studies, UC Davis; Zach Holochwost, Manager ECE Aid; Genevieve Halkett, Board of Directors at Salem for Refugees, Chemeketa Community College, Skilled Immigrants Program; and Annetta Stroud, AACRAO Associate Director, Curriculum & Content.
Approximately 40 attendees took the opportunity to listen and participate in a Q&A discussion with the panelists. The speakers addressed the multiple current crises the global community is facing. In addition, the speakers and attendees shared the success stories and the roadblocks that persist as we work together as a higher education community to ensure that everyone has access to the social and economic mobility driver that is higher education.
Exploring the Issues
As refugee crises unfold across the globe, students and scholars displaced by conflict and natural disasters need our unflinching advocacy. Educated exiles are a boon both to their resettled communities and home countries, where they often serve critical roles in rebuilding after catastrophe. The AACRAO community is uniquely positioned to marshal the policies, practices, and resources needed to open the doors to higher education.
Tools and Resources
Dr. Watenpaugh shared information and stories from the Article 26 Backpack™, an online tool for safely storing and sharing educational background and documents. The backpack supports young people looking to plan and structure their goals, and it builds a framework for global connection. The Backpack is an ongoing effort for a range of crisis situations, including in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Colombia, Burma, Hong Kong, undocumented Californians, Rwanda, and Ukraine.
Panelist Holochwost shared the steps Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. has taken to set up ECE® Aid to assist refugees, asylees, TPS, and Special immigrant status holders, as well as those affected by extreme hardship and environmental disasters. Since 2016 ECE® Aid has provided nearly 600 fee waivers for persons from 74 countries.
Panelist Halkett shared photos and stories of partnerships created with employers, the community, and throughout Chemeketa Community College. In creating flexibility in curriculum and processes and implementing wrap-around support, Halkett shared several stories of progress and success for refugee and displaced students. In 2019, Halkett received a Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP) grant from WES Global Talent Bridge, which helped lead to the future Willamette Valley Welcome Back Center at Chemeketa launching in 2023.
AACRAO’s Annetta Stroud shared the efforts by AACRAO to lead and support members in this space, including AACRAO Pledge to Support Vulnerable and Displaced Students and its work with the Article 26 Backpack. She shared AACRAO’s commitment to this work and to our members as they take the Pledge. Then, Stroud posed the question, “What policies and processes does your institution have designed to help displaced students?”
Attendees discussed how higher education institutions might develop capacity and resources to enable them to respond appropriately and with agility to future crises. This was at the heart of the luncheon as well as AACRAO’s webinar series, “Education in Crisis”. Moderator Funaki emphasized that AACRAO’s work would continue and focus on the small steps an HEI employee, department, and institution can take to impact the lives of displaced and vulnerable students. Stay tuned for additional programming.
Stay involved with the conversation and explore the resources and updates on AACRAO's Signature Initiative page for Displaced & Vulnerable Students.