FLUSHING, NY, March 23, 2012 – “So many Queens College students were born abroad,” notes Dean of Social Sciences Elizabeth Hendrey, “and that contributes to the college’s rich diversity of cultures and backgrounds.” Immigration studies, she says, “is at the heart of QC’s mission.”
The field of immigration studies has traditionally focused on the experiences of specific communities and nationalities—Asian, Latino, Caribbean, or African, for example. But QC’s Immigration Studies Working Group is taking a different approach.
The first meeting of the working group, held Feb. 15, attracted faculty from all four divisions whose research interests include political, economic, linguistic, and cultural topics on immigrant communities including Chinese, Indian, Korean, Haitian, Greek, and Italian Americans, among others. “We’re looking to create a QC-based Center for Immigration Studies—an umbrella center that embraces the commonality among all the groups that have contributed so much to the fabric of life in New York City,” says the working group’s director, Anahí Viladrich (Soc & Anthro). Now in the formative stage, the center will sponsor programs in education, research, outreach, and advocacy.
The center will build on the expertise of faculty, students, and staff who already conduct research on key areas, including immigration and public policy, globalization and transnationalism, public health and the environment, among several other fields. “Our plan is also to develop research projects and training programs aimed at educating both specialized and public audiences on the diverse needs of immigrant groups as well as on their outstanding contributions,” says Viladrich, who joined QC last fall from Hunter College, where she headed the Immigration Health Initiative. Using conferences, research seminars, and public forums among other venues, the center will reach out to scholars and students, public officials, immigrant coalitions, the nonprofit sector, and industry representatives.
To accomplish its ambitious agenda, Viladrich says, the center hopes to collaborate with faculty, students, and academic departments. “The idea is to leverage the incredible resources we have at QC and create a partnership that is truly trans disciplinary and holistic.”
Students will figure in the center’s activities, both as researchers and research subjects. A case in point: Viladrich’s proposed study of traditional healing practices and their relationship to mainstream biomedicine. “Students will be trained in ethno- graphic research methods and go into the community with video recorders to interview people in their homes—including their own families,” Viladrich says.
She also wants the center to collaborate with other colleges and private- and public-sector partners. Toward that end, the working group is organizing and co- sponsoring a series of events as part of Immigrant Heritage Week, April 17–24. Created by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, this initiative brings together a broad array of institutions and community groups that will celebrate the legacies and contributions of the city’s diverse immigrant cultures. Co-sponsors in this effort, besides the Immigration Studies Working Group, include the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding, the Division of Social Sciences, Immigration Advocacy Matters, the Kupferberg Center for the Performing Arts, the Latin American and Latino Studies Program, the Provost’s Office, and the Office of Institutional Development. “This will be our first major collaboration with other QC centers, programs, and community organizations,” says Viladrich. “And I hope it will be the first of many.”
Assistant Director of News Services