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DePaul to resettle refugee student via Welcome Corps on Campus

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In fall 2024 DePaul will take part in the inaugural cohort of Welcome Corps on Campus​, a new targeted education sponsorship initiative developed by the U.S. Departments of State and Health and Human Services. Through the program, DePaul will welcome one refugee student to campus, participating in a cohort of nearly 150 higher education institutes that have lead roles in refugee student resettlement.  

“DePaul is no stranger to welcoming immigrants, refugees and displaced people – this is at the center of our Vincentian mission,” says GianMario Besana, associate provost for global engagement and online learning. “We are thrilled to take part in this transformative program to support refugees as they strive to meet their academic and professional ambitions.” 

Through the Welcome Corps on Campus, qualified refugees can pursue life-changing opportunities to continue their education and build their futures in the United States.  

“Originally the Department of State worked with select nonprofits to resettle refugees. Later, it expanded its programming to churches and other similar organizations,” says Jill Nyhof Rodriguez, project manager for the DePaul Migration Collaborative​. “This is the first year universities have been able to welcome and resettle refugees in this capacity. This is a true opportunity for DePaul to practice its core values and provide a home and community to someone in need.”  

Though Welcome Corps on Campus and DePaul’s participation in the program are new, this is not the first time the university has officially sponsored refugees on campus. In 2021, the university worked with RefugeeOne to welcome a group of students​ who were displaced from Afghanistan. It was that experience that led Emily Kraus, assistant director of global engagement, and her colleagues to examine what the university could do to sponsor more refugees. 

“Though DePaul has always been a leader in serving those on the margins and the underserved, this is an immense opportunity for us to be a leader in the migration phenomenon and welcome those who are displaced,” Kraus says. “The process of welcoming a person to a new country, who had to leave at a moment’s notice, requires a lot of coordination. We have learned since 2021 and want to continue that momentum to do good and to do it well.” 

As a requirement of Welcome Corps on Campus, DePaul created a Private Sponsor Group to work through the program's administrative needs and serve as a core support system for the students on campus. In addition to Besana, Kraus and Nyhof Rodriguez, the group includes Maria Ferrera, associate professor of social work; Olya Glantsman, senior professional lecturer of psychology; and Ruben Alvarez, associate director for Just DePaul. 

DePaul will be matched with a refugee student in the coming months to prepare for the 2024-25 academic year. Currently, DePaul is set to welcome one student every two years via the Welcome Corps on Campus program. Though the minimum program requirement is to support the student for 12 months, DePaul has committed to supporting them until they have completed their degree. 

“As a global city, Chicago resettles people from all over the world almost constantly,” Nyhof Rodriguez says. “But no one wants to be a refugee, no one asks to be displaced from their home. I know the DePaul community will strive to not only lift up this student, and any displaced people we sponsor in the future, but also to connect them to a community in the city they identify with.”   

Members of the DePaul community who would like to contribute supplies or other support to this effort should email Emily Kraus