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The New American of Salt Lake – portraits of struggle, spirit and inspiration.

By Annalisa Purser, associate director, University of Utah Communications  

June 20 marks World Refugee Day to raise awareness and recognize the situation of refugees around the world. Many whose journeys led them to Utah have also found a home at the University of Utah. Some of these students, graduates and employees are featured by the New American of Salt Lake project, which highlights their experiences through imagery and storytelling.

Salt Lake’s refugee celebration is June 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Fairmont Park and showcases art, food and culture from around the world and offers a chance for everyone to get involved and learn more about how to support the refugee population in Utah.

Started by Nick Sokoloff, professional photographer and photojournalist, the New American of Salt Lake project aims to challenge negative rhetoric, combat scapegoating and stereotypes and highlight the positive impact that new Americans make in their communities.

“Many of the new Americans highlighted in the series have managed, against tremendous odds, to get themselves into college,” he said. “Most come from backgrounds where they have experienced war, famine, violence and many years spent in refugee campus. They all show resilience, courage and determination and great respect for the opportunities afforded them in the United States.”

Below are some of the U students and graduates featured in the New American of Salt Lake series. To see the full stories stories, click here.


Country of origin: Ethiopia

I came to the United States almost five years ago to pursue my dream of becoming a pharmaceutical researcher, which wasn't possible in Ethiopia because of the political situation. I left behind my family and a prestigious job as a university professor of pharmaceutical science. When I first arrived in the United States, I had to work as a cashier for two years before I had saved enough to go back to school and earn my PharmD.
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