RTVF program creates residency position for refugee living in the U.S.

Julia Doran, Reporter

The School of Communication will offer a refugee living in the United States an artist-scholar residency position for the next academic year in the Department of Radio, Television and Film.

Galya Ruffer, the director of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies’ Center for Forced Migration Studies, said the position will preserve and showcase the work of a refugee that would otherwise be lost in resettlement.

“When you use the word ‘refugee’ it conjures up the idea of somebody who’s somehow different, but then you meet one and you realize they’re a whole lot like us,” Ruffer said.

The selected refugee will be a recognized artist in a field of communication with his or her work produced or published in well-known venues or outlets, and will teach three courses during the residency, according to the job posting.

Ruffer said the position was created through a collaboration between her program and the School of Communication after the idea was proposed by officials from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“We’ll get to see art from another part of the world that we might have never had an opportunity to access,” she said.

She said the position reflects recent efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to encourage institutions to find new ways to integrate refugees into society.

“Now that it’s on the public agenda, it’s great to see this kind of transformation with new employers stepping up and trying to help refugees get back into the same work they’ve been doing,” Ruffer said. “The whole point is to harness the great skills these people bring.”

RTVF Prof. David Tolchinsky, the chair of the department, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Shweta Moorthy, a visiting scholar in the Center for Forced Migration Studies who teaches at Northern Illinois University, said efforts such as this would help counteract the widespread hostility and skepticism that refugees currently face.

“We ignore the positive implications of having refugees in our countries,” she said. “It’s important for refugees to be seen as human beings — people with life, experience, skills, talents, personalities and with things that bring them happiness and things that bring them sadness.”

Ruffer said being exposed to the refugee’s art will allow students to appreciate the fluidity of his or her work as they watch it adapt to the new culture, setting and audience.

She also said she wants to broaden this initiative’s reach in the future.

“Right now, this program is taking someone who’s already here, but I hope that as we expand this program, we can be able to open this up to people who were not yet resettled, to expand the paths through which people can come,” she said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @_juliadoran