Isa Amaro Varas ’23 awarded distinguished Watson Fellowship
To help protect the growing number of scholars and academics around the world whose lives and livelihoods are at risk, Connecticut College is joining with nearly a dozen other colleges and universities as founding members of the New University in Exile Consortium.
Established by The New School for Social Research and officially launched on Sept. 6, the New University in Exile Consortium is united by the belief that the academic community has both the responsibility and capacity to assist persecuted and endangered scholars everywhere, and to protect the intellectual capital that is jeopardized when universities and scholars are under assault.
“The right to think, create, express and disseminate ideas is at the very core of the academic enterprise, and when it is threatened, it is our obligation to respond,” said Amy Dooling, associate dean of global initiatives and director of The Otto and Fran Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement at Connecticut College.
“We see the consortium as a meaningful opportunity to join forces with like-minded academic institutions to harness our collective power to raise public awareness about the current—and growing—threats to the preservation of scholarly communities worldwide, while at the same time working together to develop more robust strategies for supporting displaced scholars on our own individual campuses.”
Connecticut College partners with the Institute of International Education’s scholar rescue program to host international scholars who have been displaced by conflict or exiled as a result of political persecution. The College first hosted an economist who had fled Syria.
Currently, the College is hosting Binalakshmi “Bina” Nepram, a humanitarian and peace advocate from Manipur, India. Since she arrived in January, Nepram has been working with both The Walter Commons and the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies. This semester, she is working to launch a campus dialogue series on global gun violence.
The brainchild of Arien Mack, a psychology professor at The New School for Social Research and a 1951 graduate of Connecticut College, the New University in Exile Consortium is designed to create a space for international scholars like Nepram to engage and network with other displaced scholars currently in residence at U.S. institutions and build an intellectual community that will endure beyond their temporary placements on these campuses.
Nepram, Dooling and Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron attended the official launch event for the consortium at The New School on Sept. 6. The event brought together rescued scholars and campus representatives from consortium members, which include Barnard College, Brown University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, George Mason University, Rutgers University-Newark, Trinity College and Wellesley College, in addition to Connecticut College and The New School. The event featured several distinguished speakers who have been witness to the dangers of authoritarian governments and wars around the world. Nepram also participated in the inaugural seminar, which will be hosted on an ongoing basis at The New School as part of the new consortium.
Membership in the consortium is a natural next step for Connecticut College, which has significantly expanded curricular and co-curricular programming in response to the global refugee crisis. New courses related to refugees and migration are now offered in a number of disciplines, including Anthropology and Global Islamic Studies. This fall, the College launched Migrations, Displacements, (Im)Mobilities, a new Integrative Pathway that allows students to explore the diversity of movements of people—and the mechanisms that prevent people from moving—through Connections, the College’s reinvention of a liberal arts education.
In 2016, Bergeron established the Committee on Refugee Relief and Education to coordinate faculty, staff and student efforts to respond to the crisis. Through the committee, members of the College community are working to support local agencies in their resettlement efforts and provide educational opportunities for the campus community to learn about refugee-related issues. A screening of Salam Neighbor hosted at the College raised more than $1,800 for Syrian refugee families in New London, and last summer the committee donated more than 80 hardback Arabic-language children’s books to the New London Public Library.
Recently, the College opened The Walter Commons, a vibrant hub for global learning that serves as a dynamic venue for the entire campus to engage in critical dialogues, presentations and symposia around themes of global significance, including the massive displacements of people.