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Boise State University’s Colleges Collaborate to Produce the First Boise Refugee Study

Written by Taylor Reed, Career Track MBA – 2nd Yr
This year, politics, civil war and the media have drummed up lots of coverage on refugees and asylum seekers, particularly, the millions of people who have fled the civil war occurring in Syria. Many of these asylum seekers have landed in Greece hoping to escape brutal violence. Greece has been overwhelmed with the influx of asylum seekers, however, these people are literally fleeing for their lives, and often have no other choice.

On a smaller scale, the city of Boise also accepts a number of people seeking refuge each year. The New York Times reported that Boise has accepted more refugees than both New York and Los Angeles combined. This is a well-known fact for most Boise community members. Boise hosts a number of nonprofits and businesses that work with, and depend on, the participation of refugees for the success of their organizations.

Michail Fragkins, COBE, studio portrait

This movement of people caught the attention of  Michail Fragkias, Ph.D., COBE’s economics professor whose research partially focuses on migration, urban cities and sustainability. Fragkias, who is originally from Greece but now lives in Boise, thought “ Instead of having students write papers about refugee routes and patterns that are far away, let’s make this real. These students don’t have to travel to study global issues, they are in our own backyard.”

As an RBI faculty council member, Fragkias recognized this multifaceted issue as an opportunity to join with professors of anthropology, sociology, and political science, whose classes will ultimately produce the Boise Refugee Study. The group’s goal is to steer, collect and edit student papers towards an interdisciplinary report, assessing issues of work, life and prospects of recently resettled Boise refugees. The group expects that portions of the student contributions will become a living document (e.g. in a wiki) that can be modified or expanded with each subsequent semester and class that wants to contribute to the document.

Fragkias hopes the study will accomplish three things:

  1. Steer students’ attention to an important local issue, that otherwise, they may not connect to their own education.
  2. Allow students from different colleges to place their disciplinary lens on the issue on refugees and migration.
  3. Give students the opportunity to reflect on the other groups’ contributions. (The various classes will engage in conversations on the topics selected and discuss what they’ve each learned from their own research and reading one another’s other work.)

Fragkias believes this last goal is one of the most important elements to the study. He thinks students will greatly benefit by applying toolkits they’re receiving in their respective colleges and working closely with one another to draw connections and ideate holistic solutions. Fragkias shares, “This kind of collaboration is what makes college worthwhile. Not just how any economist would address this, but how can you work with other people, with other skills sets, and bring these connections out into the open.”

The study’s target publish date will be sometime in fall 2016, follow the RBI’s Game Changer Blog this fall to find the report and learn more about issues Boise’s refugees face.

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