When: Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022 @12pm
Where: Online via zoom
Speakers: Vinh Nguyen, Anne Kiche, Mallory Petsche, Rocio Lopez Riveros
Across the globe and here in Iowa, education is seen as a ticket to a better future. The knowledge one acquires and the credentials a degree confers have the power to open previously closed doors and lead to opportunities previously not possible. For refugees and immigrants, navigating the complex systems of higher education in the US are overwhelming and promising. In some ways, the realities are akin to most first-generation families. There may be a steep learning curve about school types and the similarities and differences between them, about the FAFSA, applications, and costs for each school, about existing scholarships and other funding sources, and about the resources available to students new to the tertiary landscape. In other ways, there are realities which are unique to first-generation families newer to the US. For example, comparisons are made to higher education systems in home countries, mostly English-only information makes reading about and understanding the many college options and their requirements challenging, and once enrolled, lines might be blurred between home and school life. Attending all first-gen students are aspirations and pressures both intrinsic and those from the hopes and expectations of not just their parents but of the larger communities from which they hail. In this session, the panel will discuss the lived experiences of refugee and immigrant students and their families as they pursue admission to and persist through Iowa’s colleges and universities. They will explain some of the support programs and resources available in the state. And they will share how increasingly diversifying campuses of all types are more vibrant for everyone, particularly in learning spaces, with the inclusion of the voices, ideas, and contributions of students from all cultural and national backgrounds.
Rocio Lopez is currently a sophomore at Kirkwood Community College studying sociology. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, she is now living in Coralville, Iowa. As a work study student for TRIO, Rocio works closely alongside other TRIO students with the goal of making connections and spreading information about how great the program is and what resources are available. For her future, she plans to transfer to the University of Iowa and pursue a career involving student support services.
Mallory Petsche has served alongside refugee and immigrant communities in Iowa for nearly a decade. Her work centers around building innovative, cross-sector partnerships that eliminate barriers for newcomer communities and create space for strategic, community-based solutions in education from pre-k to higher ed. Mallory currently serves as the Director of Kirkwood Community College TRIO Student Support Services - ESL Program. The program provides culturally-specific academic support, social engagement, and career planning for first and second-generation immigrant students who are the first in their families to attend college, low income, or have a documented disability.
Dr. Anne Kiche is adjunct assistant professor in the Global Health Studies Program at The University of Iowa and an adjunct instructor in English Language Acquisition (ELA) at Kirkwood Community College. Her teaching interests include education, immigrant and refugee health, and the connection between migration, diversity, and pandemics on both the physical and mental health of populations. Life experiences living in Kenya and the US have invaluably informed her teaching. She teaches courses such as Health Experiences of Immigrants, Migrants and Refugees; Pandemics and Mental Health; and Mental Health in Diverse Societies. She is the chair of the African Communities Network of Iowa and will be the diversity co-chair of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in Linn and Johnson counties starting July 1st, 2022
Vinh Nguyen recently retired from Des Moines Public Schools after thirty-four years of service. He is now Refugee Education Coordinator at Lutheran Services in Iowa. Nguyen earned a secondary math teaching certification from Drake University in 1993, an ELL certification from William Penn University in 2006, and a master's degree in school leadership and supervision from Viterbo University in 2015. As a former refugee, one of the Boat People from Vietnam, he found many difficulties and challenges in adjusting to his new life in 1980s America. With no English language skills, he struggled to communicate and often relied on others to interpret and to help find jobs. He was the recipient of the Passport to Prosperity Award from the Iowa Council for International Understanding in 2004. He was given the Dan Chavez, Beyond the Horizon Award in 2005, a prestigious award given to an individual who demonstrates extraordinary effort on behalf of immigrant, refugee, and non-English speaking populations in Iowa. DMACC honored with the Alumni Award in 2009. In addition, he was presented the Governor's Volunteer Award in 2010; the Special Recognition from Governor Chet Culver in 2010, a Bankers Trust Award for Excellent Volunteers in 2020; and the Impact Award in 2022 from the Iowa Asian Alliance. He is very active in Des Moines's language minority communities and currently serves as the president of the Vietnamese American Community in Iowa. He serves as a storyteller, speaker, and consultant for topics related to Vietnam, Southeast Asia, refugee and immigrant issues, the refugee resettlement process, and second language acquisition.
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