Vassar Refugee Solidarity and the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education (CFMDE) are committed to explore the opportunities offered by the digital humanities. We have developed several projects that rely on our network of educational institutions outside the United Sates, the expertise of our alums, and the skill of tech companies in order to use the internet to create transnational education exchanges.
As part of our Transnational Classroom, we develop courses with our partnering universities that enable forcibly displaced individuals to digitally participate in the class regardless of their geographical location. Universities provide forcibly displaced individuals with the course materials, but the forcibly displaced individuals must have advanced English language skills to participate.
Professor Höhn taught a first such class in Spring 2018 on “History and Memory in Germany post-1945.” The class was taught via skype and six Vassar students and 6 refugee students (Syria and Afghanistan) who were granted asylum in Berlin, Germany were in the class. Donors made it possible to buy IPads for the refugee students.
English Language Exchange
Through the English Language Exchange, college students are paired with forcibly displaced students interested in practicing their English conversation skills. These are informal conversations as our college students do not have ESL training, but still aim to foster cross-cultural communication. All college students involved are volunteers and all conversations happen online.
Conversations Unbound, previously known as Speak to Me, is an initiative that grew out of Vassar Refugee Solidarity and is now a registered non-profit organization in the United States. Through this project, forcibly displaced individuals are paid online Arabic or Spanish language tutors for college students in the U.S. Currently, the tutor sessions are integrated into the language curriculum at Vassar College and Michigan State University. Jim Leu ‘94, who works as the Educational Director for the digital language platform italki was central in making this initiative a reality. We are grateful to italki for waiving the customary user fees for the refugee initiative and to our Vassar alums who have been raising the funds to pay the refugee language tutors.