By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications
Professor Caren J. Frost is the director of the newly launched Center for Research on Migration & Refugee Integration. Housed in the College of Social Work, the center aims to advance the understanding and practice of effective integration of new Americans. @theU spoke with Professor Frost about the new center.
Q: What led to the creation of the center?
A: The center is the result of a year-long discussion between the college, university faculty and community partners. We recognized a need for a central place for sharing information and developing practices that would improve not only Utah’s refugee services but be a model for communities throughout the country.
Q: What challenges do refugees and immigrants face?
A: Each year, approximately 1,200 refugees resettle in Utah and a similar number of immigrants move here. These new residents have made it to the U.S. but face obstacles due to language and cultural differences. Many have experienced trauma, which led them to leave their native countries, and have unique mental health challenges. They need help navigating our systems — health care, employment, transportation, education, housing.
Q: What exactly will the center do?
A: This is the first academic center west of the Mississippi River to focus on immigrant and refugee populations. It will work in three arenas: research, education and outreach.
Our initial effort will be to create a network of university and community researchers who will explore issues related to integration. We also want to provide education and outreach to refugees and immigrants living in the Salt Lake Valley and attending the University of Utah. In the spring, we’ll host a research conference that brings together a consortium of researchers from throughout the Intermountain West to share their work. And we’ll host a “Welcome Day” to bring high school students to the campus.
Q: What are the center’s initial areas of focus?
A: Our immediate research focus will be on youth and parenting challenges; development of a certification process for accepting academic and professional degrees granted in other countries; and an assessment of currently available services and research being done on refugee and immigrant issues.
Q: Who else is involved in the center?
A: Our partners include the International Rescue Committee, Utah Department of Workforce Services’ Refugee Services Office, Catholic Community Services, the University of Utah Division of Public Health and the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office.
We’re going to be everywhere! I want us to be the university media and communities turn to when they need the best information on and practices related to integration of new Americans.