Rutgers’ Official Launch of the University Alliance for Refugees and At-Risk Migrants (UARRM)

By Jane Roche and Christina Lobruto ,Contributors

On Monday, July 23, 2018, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey hosted the Official Launch of the University Alliance for Refugees and At-Risk Migrants (UARRM). The UARRM is a group of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers seeking to harness the potential of university communities for the empowerment of refugees and at-risk migrants.

This conference, University Communities Engaging in the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, brought together 120 participants, including migrants, refugees, faculty, students, local and U.S. government, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and members of the international community to discuss strategies to better support refugees and at-risk migrant students and threatened scholars.

Cosponsored by Rutgers Graduate School-Newark and Rutgers Global, the event featured a keynote address by Ms. Suzanne Sheldon, Senior Policy Adviser from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – U.N. Migration Agency.

Ph.D. students Jane Roche (right) and Hourie Tafech (left): The two faces behind successful UARRM launch.

Sheldon gave an overview of the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, noting that the IOM hopes to see an advisory committee created in the long term.

“None of us exists in isolation,” she said. “I see the Compact as a common vision and roadmap to shape things for years to come.”

The day then took the form of panel sessions, which explored how university communities can help refugee and at-risk migrant students and threatened scholars gain access to higher education opportunities and provide assistance with housing, legal counseling, medical care and psychosocial support for refugees and at-risk migrants. Other themes involved student advocacy on campus, support of evidence-based policies and demonstrating the economic and social contributions of migrants, and the central role of universities in reshaping narratives, improving public understanding, generating inter-cultural dialogue and developing curriculum for teaching migration in the digital age.

Dr. Kyle Farmbry presenting the opening remarks at UARRM. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration and Dean of the Graduate School–Newark at Rutgers University–Newark.

The idea for the Alliance was first conceived in 2016 by Dr. Colleen Thouez, Director of the Welcoming and Integration Division at Open Society Foundations (OSF), who provided the event’s closing remarks. Since 2016, the UARRM has grown into a regional coalition spearheaded by a steering committee composed of twelve members, which is co-chaired by Dr. Kyle Farmbry, Dean of the Graduate School at Rutgers–Newark and Ms. Sarah Willcox, Director of the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF).

The UARRM’s mandate centers on higher education and vocational training for refugee and at-risk migrant students, scholars fleeing conflict and/or repression and members of their families. Its six Action Areas include offering more legal pathways to the United States for study, research, vocational training; overcoming barriers to entry into higher education institutions in the United States; providing on-campus and in-community support; advocacy and awareness raising; research, and media and communications.

Barbara Lee, senior vice president for academic affairs at Rutgers, praised those in attendance.

Full house of students, academics and practitioners at the conference.

“It’s heartwarming to see so many people here who care so much,” she said. “Thank you for sharing your passion and energy and expertise. We’re thrilled to host this program.”

Please find a copy of our summary report from the meeting here. To learn more about the UARRM, visit


Jane Roche is a Ph.D. student of Global Affairs, Rutgers University—NewarK.

Christina Lobruto is a communications specialist at Rutgers Global in New Brunswick.


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