In fall 2015, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences welcomed its first cohort of students to the new master’s program in refugee and forced migration studies. The spring 2016 issue of DePaul Magazine explored this innovative program—which is the first of its kind in the United States—in depth. Learn more from two current students below.
A New Outlook
Almost immediately after starting the program, Wallis Raekelboom gained perspective. “Honestly, I used to be quite a negative person,” she says. “I used to complain about stupid stuff, but the more I got into the research, I was like, ‘How am I even allowed to complain?’” Raekelboom hails from Belgium and boasts a background in international affairs and sociology. She enrolled in the program to learn about refugee and forced migration issues from outside of the European Union.
“The world right now—it’s going crazy,” she stresses. “We have refugees all over the place. We have more and more conflict. What’s going on now, it’s not going to stop anytime soon, and people should have some knowledge about how they can help.” Raekelboom hopes to work in humanitarian aid policy making; enrolling in this program was the first step to realizing her dream. “We need to find short-term solutions for immediate crisis situations, but we also have to look toward developing durable solutions that address the root causes of the problems,” she explains. “It’s something that really interests me, and it’s important that somebody works on these topics. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help some people in the world.”
A Greater Awareness
Kevin Dowds was working on his first master’s in theology when he became interested in Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations. These issues came into sharp relief during an internship at Catholic Charities in Virginia. Yet, despite his studies, Dowds couldn’t see the complete picture. “I felt I was lacking knowledge of the historical issues that were going on in the Middle East and Central and South America,” he says. “I wanted to keep learning so I could better help the people I work with when I graduate.”
With anti-immigrant sentiment reaching a pinnacle in the media, Dowds hopes that he can use what he learns during the program to educate his peers. “I would like to be able to spread more awareness of the issues so people have a better understanding of where others are coming from,” he says. “A lot of the times, the reason people are displaced, it’s not their fault. There are circumstances where they felt like they had to leave their homelands. It’s crucial in today’s world to bring a better awareness of these issues. They aren’t going to go away.”