International Education at the Margins: Access for Refugees?

International Education at the Margins: Access for Refugees?

Sara, a recent recipient of a Creighton University certificate, led us to a back patio where ten women were actively engaged in making soap to sell to the community. The soap-making process was tedious, with a complex chemical formula on a chalkboard and women nearby taking turns turning that formula into soap. The women’s cooperative soap-making business, an offshoot of Kakuma Soap Makers, was just one of the ideas pitched to a delegation led by Creighton’s president Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., for seed money for creative, innovative projects from Creighton certificate recipients.  Other pitches included growing more nutritious herbs and vegetables to supplement UNHCR food distribution, a computer training business, empowering girls to stay in school, and a café in the compound where students take certificate classes. The energy in delivering these business plans was genuinely inspiring, especially since they were pitched inside Kakuma refugee camp, one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

Kakuma is the Swahili word for nowhere, and the camp hosts a quarter million refugees and asylum seekers living in a desert region in northwestern Kenya. Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) has provided academic credit courses and professional training since 2010 in various refugee camps worldwide. Kakuma began in 1992, with many of the first refugees streaming in from southern Sudan, although today, there are refugees from many countries in east and southern Africa. Creighton University is one of the schools of record for JWL, offering a pre-STEM certificate of 30 credits to 160 students per year in two cohorts of 80 students each. Last year, JWL enrolled 7.662 students in 11.443 courses in 59 Community Learning Centers (CLCs) in 23 countries. JWL provides these courses by utilizing faculty from Jesuit universities throughout the world. Xavier Institute of Management University in Bhubaneswar, India, offers a B.A. in Sustainable Development and accepts unlimited students who have completed the Creighton Pre-STEM program. Starting this fall, St. Louis University will offer a B.A. in General Studies for 50 students per year who successfully completed the Pre-STEM certificate program. Dr. Martha Habash, USA Academic Director for JWL and a Creighton Professor, stated, “In meeting with refugees in JWL’s programs, I’ve repeatedly heard how these programs make them feel remembered in a world where they thought they had been forgotten. This feeling, plus the skills and knowledge they gain from the courses, gives them hope for a better future for themselves, their family, and their community.”

Refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine who recently emigrated to the United States also want to enter or complete their higher education degrees. This has provoked a needed response from the higher education community. At the recent Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) conference held in February in Washington, D.C., there were three-panel presentations by an array of public and private universities on how they are meeting that need. John Sunnygard, associate provost for global learning and international affairs at Western Kentucky, shared that there were 19 refugee students this spring semester at his institution. UWK has been able to support tuition for these students through a unique $10-million Kentucky Innovative Scholarship Pilot Program, funded through the state lottery, which helps students at public and private colleges. According to Laura Wagner, director of refugee student initiatives at the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, “Expanding refugee access to U.S. higher education is not only a life-changing opportunity for refugee students but will unleash  talent and potential which will benefit and transform campuses and communities, as greater diversity drives excellence and innovation.” Witnessing Sara and her work engaging community members in an entrepreneurial soap business in Kakuma, I couldn’t agree more.  

HEI Refugee Resources-

About the author: Terence Miller has over 25 years of experience as a senior international education leader at public and private universities. He is presently an Affiliate of Gateway International, where he is a senior consultant for Executive Searches and co-leads the Duty of Care and International Regulatory Compliance Solutions. He brings his legal expertise to strategic partnerships, safety, health, risk management, and comprehensive internationalization. He received his Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University. He co-authored with Tom Bogenschild, and Kyle Rausch, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL OFFICERS (SIOs) IN THE HEADWINDS: Duty of Care (DOC), Global Operations, and International Regulatory Compliance in the time of Covid-19 (Gateway International, 2022).

One Response

  1. Another great organization and resource that I have been engaged with is Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR). ECAR is a higher-education initiative founded in September 2015 at Guilford College. Its mission is to make every U.S. college and university a Resettlement Campus which partners with a local refugee resettlement agency to host refugees on campus grounds and supports their successful integration. Since ECAR’s inception, twelve campuses including Lafayette College, Wake Forest University, Russell Sage College, Old Dominion University, and Siena College among others have started their own ECAR Chapters. I encourage others to check it out: http://everycampusarefuge.net.

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Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
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An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.