Careers in migration and displacement alumnae/i panel opens career paths

[DISCLAIMER: An earlier version of this article contained quotes for which those quoted did not give express consent, but were rather stated on a video call that required registration to attend. These quotes have since been omitted.]

On April 5, the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education (CFMDE) hosted a Careers in Migration & Displacement Alumnae/i Panel over Zoom. The panel is part of a growing effort to formalize the study of Migration and Displacement after a correlate launched last semester in the International Studies department according to Coordinator for Research and Pedagogy Ava McElhone Yates ’21. 

The panel fostered increased connections with alumni to network and discover career opportunities. “The issues of migration and displacement aren’t going away. I see this program growing a lot and I know that we have students who have this correlate who are graduating who have interest in pursuing careers related to this as well,” Yates said.

Yates planned and facilitated the panel along with the Career Development Office (CDO) Associate Director of Alumnae/i Outreach and Partnerships Jannette Swanson. Other organizations involved include Vassar Refugee Solidarity, Vassar Law Club and Vassar Alliance of Women in Foreign Affairs. The panel consisted of 40 minutes of prepared questions followed by audience questions. Afterwards, students could move between breakout rooms and directly connect with alumnae/i. 

“We’ve seen that there’s a lot of interest from students and faculty to come together as a community [for the Migration and Displacement correlate],” Yates said. “Now that we can [come together as a community] again with events, that’s really exciting. I think it’s growing a lot of momentum on campus.” 

Alumnae/i connections are critical for migration and displacement careers with many of the panelists getting their jobs through prior internships, according to Sophia Rao ’22, an International Studies major with a Migration and Displacement correlate. She secured an internship with a migrant resettlement non-governmental organization, with help from Vassar alumnae/i network on applications. “Vassar has a pretty big network of people working in migration fields and I think reaching out to them has done me more than anything else,” Rao added.

Each panelist had a different path to a career in migration and displacement, alluding to the interdisciplinary nature of the field. Some had specific classes or internships that motivated them such as Diasporas and taking an urban education initiative semester and others didn’t have any previous involvement in the field.

During a Q&A session with the audience, questions addressed the emotional toll of migration and displacement work in directly dealing with refugees and against a larger seemingly unmovable system.

For students looking to get involved, the panelists recommend internships and joining the CFMDE. The CFMDE was founded in early 2016 and developed a shared curriculum to address forced migration by Vassar College, Bard College, Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence College and The New School. The Council for European Studies later joined the CFMDE. This organization consists of research initiatives and an expansion of academic offerings in migration and displacement, including the recently added correlate. 

After experiencing reduced privileges from emmigrating to the US from Brazil, Bruna Oliveira ’25 of Bennington College was motivated to join the CFMDE. Exposure to other students’ research through the CFMDE is helpful to Oliveira who is considering a thesis on migration.

The correlate both formalizes the study and helps in job interviews related to migration and displacement in Rao’s experience, one of the first two students at Vassar graduating with the correlate. Jose Magana ’25 is considering the correlate to achieve career aspirations to help migrant families adjust to the U.S. Another hopeful is Clarissa Padilla ’25, a Science, Technology and Society major who recognizes the importance of considering migration, displacement and border through a multidisciplinary lens.

Through events like the alumne/i panel, Yates emphasized, “You don’t need to leave [this correlate] behind when you leave Vassar.” A lecture entitled Understanding the Ukraine Refugee Crisis with Dr. Oxana Shevel will follow on April 28 over Zoom. In addition, Saúl Ulloa ’15 posted an entry-level job and internship with the International Rescue Committee. She added, “This is a growing field and growing opportunities, both while you’re a student here and also after you graduate.”

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