RCAH Parents College 2016: Immigrants and Refugees

July 15, 2016 - 8:00am - July 17, 2016 - 8:00pm
Snyder-Phillips Hall
362 Bogue Street
East Lansing, MI
United States

The fifth RCAH Parents College will be held from Friday, July 15, through Sunday, July 17, 2016.

The previous topics have been sacrifice, forgiveness, charitable giving & humanitarian work, and fear. We discussed philosophical arguments, analyzed famous paintings, watched contemporary film, and put our heads together from virtually morning until night.

This year’s topic is Immigrants and Refugees. There are many guiding questions one could pose about our topic. For example,

  • What are the living conditions of immigrants and refugees today?
  • What factors have caused these conditions?
  • How have immigrants and refugees coped with these conditions?
  • What can and should be done about this situation, and by whom? 

This year’s final project for Parents College will be a portrait of each participant’s own family history, showcasing where your family has come from and what the journey to the U.S. was like. This may require some genealogical digging, and some participants will know more than others. The point is not how much information you can gather but rather how you tell the story. In effect, you will compose a short series of snapshots, figuratively speaking. Of course, you can use pictures as prompts and illustrations, but primarily you will tell your story in words.

The story can be of recent refugees or immigrants in your family. But, if none exists that you know of, you can tell the stories of later generations born here in the US. The goal is to explore how the immigrant or refugee experience has affected your family in some way. And, if it doesn’t seem to have had an effect, then, of course you may explore how the experience has affected the family of a friend or acquaintance. It is rare that someone has had no contact with immigrants, refugees, or their descendants at all. We’ll display your stories in the RCAH Administrative Wing (Snyder C210) along with the work of the first four Parents College participants. Last year’s project was a set of creative non-fiction stories that are artfully displayed in a handmade podium, made by RCAH faculty member Steve Baibak in such a way that your stories can be added to this collection.

To prepare for this project we will be reading and discussing selections from the following three-part list of books and articles. You can begin with the Ben Rawlence book, City of Thorns.  

Ethnography and Auto-ethnography

Ben Rawlence, City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the Word’s Largest Refugee Camp (Picador, 2016)

Refugee Hotel, Photographs by Gabriele Stabile and text by Juliet Linderman (McSweeney’s, 2012)

Shahram Khosravi, ‘Illegal’ Traveler: An Auto-ethnography of Borders (Palgrave, 2010)


Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways: A Novel (Knopf, 2016)

Neel Mukherjee, A Life Apart: A Novel (Norton, 2016)

NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names: A Novel (Little, Brown & Co., 2013)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah: A Novel (Knopf, 2013)


Nicholas Schmidle, “Ten Borders: One refugee’s epic escape from Syria,” The New Yorker, October 26, 2015

Elizabeth Dunn, “The Refugee Crisis is Here to Stay,” The Boston Review, November/December, 2015

Rachel Aviv, “The Refugee Dilemma: What do we owe those we take in?”  The New Yorker, December 7, 2015

Michael Ignatieff, “The Refugees & the New War,” The New York Review of Books, December 17, 2015

The cost of Parents College is minimal. Commuters can expect to pay $80, participants who wish to stay in a single room will pay $150, and the per-person rate for those sharing a room will be $130. This year the Snyder-Phillips dining hall and the rooms are open again during the summer. There is no tuition.

We will be taking our meals in the Snyder-Phillips dining hall (“The Gallery”) and our classroom space will be in RCAH once again. This year we will also be traveling into Lansing at least once to meet with the staff and participants at the Lansing Refugee Development Center. The LRDC is a longtime partner of RCAH, and we are fortunate that their summer program, GLOBE summer camp, will be running at this time for us to observe.

Questions about Parents College? Contact Dawn Janetzke via email.


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