Improving the Refugee Resettlement Process in the U.S. Developing a Knowledge Base to Guide Local Policies

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The process of resettling refugees is a challenging task. However, the extent of the cultural divide between the host community and the refugees significantly magnifies that challenge. During this workshop, the facilitators will present a model of ecological factors that support refugee resettlement, based on case study research. After this brief introduction, the audience will be presented with the following actual resettlement scenario:

The city of Utica, NY (population approximately 65,000) has resettled over 5,000 Bosnians within the last ten years. Despite this large influx of Bosnians into this small, economically depressed city, their familiarity with modern lifestyles and level of literacy somewhat eased their transition into this community. In fact, there is evidence that their presence in Utica has contributed to the revitalization of some neighborhoods. In contrast, Utica has recently become home to smaller groups (a few hundred) of Burmese, Somali Bantu, and Sudanese refugees; their more pastoral and non-literate culture has made for a very difficult adjustment.

Upon reviewing this scenario, participants will be asked to discuss the following topics in small groups:

1.In the short term, how can a host community more effectively assist refugees who are unfamiliar with most aspects of modern life (e.g., electricity, indoor plumbing, grocery stores, canned food, doorknobs, etc.)?

2.In the longer term, in what ways can we increase the odds that the resettlement of these refugee groups will be mutually beneficial to them and their host community?

At the end of the discussion period, participants will share their thoughts and expertise on the above topics with the whole group. Our intent is to offer the ideas generated in this session to the refugee resettlement center in Utica, with the hope of easing the challenges they currently face.


Keywords: Refugees, Resettlement, Cultural Adaptation
Stream: Immigration, Refugees
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: , Improving the Refugee Resettlement Process in the U.S.


Dr. R. Scott Smith

Associate Professor, Psychology Department, Utica College
Utica, NY, USA

R. Scott Smith received his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1990. He is a community psychologist investigating pedagogy and racial and cultural diversity issues, and is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology at Utica College.

Mahadevi Ramakrishnan

Senior Lecturer, Romance Languages and Literatures, Colgate University
Hamilton, NY, USA

Mahadevi Ramakrishnan received her Doctorate in Foreign Languages from Syracuse University in 1993. She currently teaches French at Colgate University and the International ESL Summer Program at Utica College. Her main interests are in language acquisition through cultural immersion and the process of adaptation to different cultural contexts.

Ref: D08P0286