Salve welcomes more Afghan refugee students to campus
Three additional Afghan students, displaced from their native country since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, have now arrived on Salve’s campus and are enrolled as transfer students. They join four of their compatriots who enrolled at Salve in January through a developing national initiative that creates higher education pathways for refugees from around the world.
The three new students were welcomed by Salve’s president, Kelli Armstrong, in her office on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Two attended international orientation on campus in late August and were able to start classes on time last week. The third arrived late due to delays in the resettlement process and started classes this week.
“You are really cared about here — and if you need anything, all you have to do is ask,” Dr. Armstrong told the students, making sure each was adjusting well to their Salve campus experience. “Having you here is really important to who we are as an institution; it’s really important to our mission.”
One of the new students had been attending classes at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) before being evacuated to Kyrgyzstan, where they continued their studies at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek. Two of the students were already studying at AUCA and was unable to return to Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul. Upon their individual arrivals to the U.S. they were assisted by the resettlement agency Dorcas International while residing in temporary housing in Providence.
“Being here feels like a dream, to be honest,” said Navid Mohmand, pictured above with Dr. Armstrong. “It was totally unexpected for me, but now that I am here — the behavior of people I am seeing is very friendly and welcoming. The professors are really helpful.”
In addition to receiving tuition support from Salve Regina, the students are receiving funding and support from the Qatar Scholarship for Afghans Project (QSAP) to offset the costs of room, board, and other living expenses. QSAP, founded by the Afghan Future Fund (AFF), Education Above All Foundation (EAA), Yalda Hakim Foundation (YHF), Schmidt Futures, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), is a unique partnership welcoming 250 displaced Afghan students to more than 40 U.S. college and university campuses.
The students have also been greatly assisted by a community development grant from Centreville Bank, which helps support essential costs related to settling into their new homes on campus. RI Reconnect, a program of the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner that aids refugees and other populations in completing postsecondary education, is assisting with the cost of books as well as connecting the students to other helpful resources in the state as they complete their education and enter the workforce.
Erin FitzGerald, director of the Center for Global Education and Fellowships (CGEF), who is coordinating the initiative at Salve, said she believes the majority of the students’ needs, including being placed with jobs on campus, have been met through the support of multiple University offices, together with resources and services provided by external partners.
The CGEF sponsored a one-day training in August for thirty Salve community members offered by Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) and the National Association of System Heads (NASH). The training focused on developing knowledge about the global migration crisis and developing strategies for making university campuses more welcoming to refugee students.
“These are such talented students whose educations and futures have been dramatically impacted by the crisis in their country,” said FitzGerald. “I am confident that our community will benefit as much from their presence and their perspectives as they benefit from the support offered them from Salve and other partners.”
As an active member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, Salve is among universities collaborating on the effort to enroll refugee students. The Alliance is working in partnership with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to achieve the ambitious goal of providing 15 percent of eligible refugees with access to higher education by 2030. Just yesterday the Welcome Corps on Campus initiative was officially launched in D.C. This initiative will involve U.S. universities applying to host refugees from around the world on their campus, supported by a constellation of national and international organizations.
The UNHCR reports 79.5 million people are currently displaced worldwide, including 26 million refugees. Of these, only three percent of college-eligible refugees are currently able to access higher education.