Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

VIEWPOINT: Welcome Refugee Students on Campus


At this very moment — following generations of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and other disruptions to public order — 110 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, including 36.4 million refugees. As both citizens of a first-world country and students attending an elite private university, we have a responsibility to help those in need. Georgetown University and its student groups deserve recognition for doing just that.

As the Fall 2023 semester ended, Georgetown submitted its application to Welcome Corps on Campus. Under the U.S. Department of State, the Welcome Corps sponsors newly relocated refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Through this program, students are connected with places of higher education to study with all expenses covered as they are legally, socially and financially resettled. Upon arrival, refugee students are linked with student volunteers and a private campus sponsor group (PSG), often made up of university administrative figures, to help facilitate the student’s integration into the university and the United States. 

The program is a consortium of nonprofit organizations run by the Community Sponsorship Hub. Every Campus A Refuge trains the PSG, the Institute of International Education works to place participating refugees, the National Association of Higher Education Systems and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration work to expand outreach and increase university participation and the World University Service of Canada heads technical advising. 

Laura Wagner from the Presidents’ Alliance has been a primary contact for Georgetown and was key to bringing Welcome Corps on Campus to our campus. Wagner said she feels a deep love for this work and its potential to transform the students and the universities themselves. 

“The community inside and outside of the classroom is changed as we welcome and integrate inclusivity and diversity into our spaces. Selfishly, I love this work because it improves my community. We gain access to talents, skills, insights and perspectives from everywhere — it brings the world to me,” Wagner told the Hoya. 

She also described the importance of accessibility for those with various disabilities that, as integrated members of American society, we often take for granted.

“As a refugee, you were never taught to navigate the U.S. We have many basic needs that we don’t acknowledge… like when was the last time you thought about which phone card to use? As 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s hard to arrive here and not be able to afford college. The life you were born into shouldn’t dictate your opportunities,” Wagner said. 

Wagner reported that Georgetown will be welcoming two refugees from the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. Though the specific students have not been identified yet, the camps support refugees from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda. As this is the first year for Welcome Corps on Campus at Georgetown, the hope is to expand next year to include mostly Syrian refugees (the largest refugee population in the world) from Jordan

Ideally, these new students will arrive during the next fall semester, though the university has yet to confirm this. Regardless, the university appears committed. On Sept. 12, 2023, Georgetown hosted a public launch of the program, during which University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) impressed upon the importance of Welcome Corps on Campus’ mission.

“This work could not take place at a more urgent moment for our global family. Each of us has a role to play in expanding access and opportunity around our globe. Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue an education. And all of us, no matter where we call home, are connected” DeGioia said during his speech at the event. 

This initiative proves an example, though not the totality, of university-based refugee support, contributing to a bigger picture. When communicating with a university spokesperson, I learned about the breadth of student assistance the university is already providing. 

The Welcome Corps program is not the first program to exist at Georgetown with the goal of helping students around the world overcome difficult circumstances. The university continues to assist those from Ukraine and Afghanistan and has served as a partner school in the Davis UWC Scholars Program for more than a decade — a program that places high school students across the globe at American colleges and universities. Georgetown’s advocacy extends in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects undocumented students from deportation and increases their employment opportunities. 

This advocacy is not restricted to the administration. In fact, a university spokesperson informed me of various ways students on campus have become involved themselves.

“In parallel with these efforts, we are encouraged to see student-led efforts on campus, including No Lost Generation, the Migration and Refugee Policy Initiative, the Health Navigator Program and others,” the spokesperson wrote to The Hoya, “Students are the best ambassadors to their peers and these efforts embody the university’s value of ‘People for Others.’”

I implore all students to get involved. Service is a core value for communities all over the world, and especially on our campus. There are so many ways our society proves inaccessible to its citizens. We are morally obligated to use our privilege to make a difference. I wish the best of luck to our incoming peers and am excited for what the future holds. It is stories like these that have the power to inspire us to “pass it forward.”

Saeed Samra is a first-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences.

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