Student Research Projects

In order to learn from the past to act in the present, 145 students in our Spring 2016 class, The 21st Century Worldwide Refugee Crisis, worked in teams to research past refugee crises. The research projects are exploring the historical context and timelines of various displacements, and the way in which past crises were addressed or ignored.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the refugee crises that have taken place in the 20th and 21st centuries. We would love to have other refugee crises covered by students who are interested in contributing to the archival material that will be posted on this website. Here are just a few other topics that we have thought of:

  • Individuals fleeing Soviet rule in Eastern Europe in the 1945-1949 period (to Europe, the U.S., South America, and Canada)
  • Mass exodus of Tibetans following His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV into exile in India in 1959 due to Chinese presence in the region and the refugees fleeing Tibet since that time
  • The refugee flows out of Afghanistan that has accelerated since the U.S. invasion and the rise of ISIS

The following is a list of research projects the students took on these past six weeks in our class. Have a look!

Current Refugee Crises

Syrian Refugee Crisis

  • Students created an interactive timeline of the Syrian refugee crisis beginning in 2012, drawing from media articles and reports to trace the recent history of the large flows of Syrian refugees. Click on any text within the timeline to find the referenced article!
  • UNHCR’s Map of Registered Syrian Refugees and Asylum Seekers is also a useful tool for understanding the distribution of displaced people around the world as well as specifically in the Middle East, where many countries not only have people leaving to seek asylum but also have large numbers of displaced people entering their borders.
  • Compiled by Seth Molwitz, Gaven Eier, Caroline Geary, William Kyle, Alex Hardy, and Reilly Hay

The Syrian Refugee Crisis is a Feminist Issue

  • One student explored how the Syrian refugee crisis is necessarily also a feminist issue, exploring how racist, orientalist, and sexist stereotypes are often used as justification for barring Syrian refugees and specifically women and children from entering Western countries.
  • Compiled by Alexia Garcia

Refugees Fleeing Violence in Central America and Mexico

  • Students looked at the causes of the violence forcing mass movement out of Central America and Mexico, the governmental, institutional, and civic response to masses of immigrants both in the U.S. and within different areas of Central America, and the perilous journey immigrants are forced to undertake. The students also suggested some solutions to this increasingly deadly issue.
  • Compiled by Katherine Willard, Toscane Clarey, Joan Krickellas, Elise Chessman, Aviva Thal, Tatiana Santiago, Liza Ayres, Ann Tartakoff, Sofia Gutierrez, Violet Cole, and Cristian Contreras

The Experiences of Queer Refugees

  • One student studied the necessity of considering the specificity of a queer refugee’s experience as not only a displaced person but also sometimes as a social exile from their communities. This lack of support makes it all the more vital that resettlement agencies take an active role in helping queer refugees.
  • Compiled by Kevin Pham

The Limits of Photography

  • One student is examining limits of the representations of the current refugee crisis in Europe, looking at less-biased visual options that are being created and offered in lieu of traditional photo-journalism.
  • Compiled by Haley Kardek

Vassar Responses to Refugee Crises

The MacCracken Files

  • During the tenure of Henry Noble MacCracken as president of Vassar, there were a number of displaced and refugee scholars hosted by the college. Students looked into Vassar’s archives to obtain information regarding Vassar’s response to academics fleeing Nazi occupied Europe.
  • Compiled by Tonya Ingerson, Jenna Doherty, Lindsay Suarez, Emily Webb, Adam Senack, Borgne Raasch, Bethany Semblante, Lily Berman, Anthony Brown
  • Two of these students, Emily Webb and Lindsay Suarez, have started a MacCracken Files Blog as an ongoing project to highlight different scholars who were highlighted in the MacCracken Files from the Vassar archives.

Refugees from the Spanish Civil War

  • Students looked at Vassar’s response to refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
  • Compiled Olivia Zane, Antar Thiam, Aly Biaggi, Eilis Donohue, Paula Guardans-Godo, Christina Yang, Clark Xu

Eastern and Central Europe After WWII

Expulsion of 12 Million Ethnic Germans from their Homelands in Central Europe

  • Students created a website with general information and a bibliography for information on the expulsions of 12 million ethnic Germans from Central Europe after WWII.
  • Compiled by Brianna Banks, Alix Azad, Serenity Budd, Fiona Socolow, Tali Shapiro, Nathaniel Posner, and Caroline Rivers

Resettlement of Poles Expelled from Eastern Poland

  • Students focused on the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Poland during and after WWII. They produced an annotated ‘syllabus’ that highlights important works addressing the exodus of ethnic Germans and looks at the response, or lack thereof, in the Anglo-American media.
  • Compiled by John Haug

“Bodenreform”: Reorganization of Land in East Germany and Poland

  • Students examined the expulsion and resettlement of Eastern Prussians under the Potsdam Agreement that led to large numbers of refugees who were displaced from their homes in these regions.
  • Compiled by Brian Kube and Aaron Hill

Displaced Persons from Europe After WWII

  • Students tracked displaced persons throughout Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, examining the legal status surrounding refugees as national boundaries in Eastern Europe were in flux.
  • Compiled by Emily Dennis, Katie Nordstrom, and Kristen Caccavale

Refugees From the Balkan Wars

  • Students created an annotated syllabus that outlines that U.S. response to refugee flows from the Balkan Wars following the 1989 collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.
  • Compiled by Daniel Lee, Laura Price, and Chris Allen

WWII, the Holocaust, and the Creation of the State of Israel

The 1948 Palestinian Refugee Crisis

  • Students collected materials regarding the 1948 expulsion and exodus of Palestinians—referred to by Palestinians as al-Nakbah—that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. They created an annotated bibliography, including infographics and photos, to present their findings on U.S. media portrayals of Palestinian refugees at the time and the language of displacement.
  • Compiled by Julia Albertson, Audrey Aller, Mikayla-Brennan-Burke, Michaela Coplen, Claire DiLeo, Leela Stalzer, and Kristianna Weber

Media Responses to the Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands

  • Students researched the persecution and in some cases expulsion of Jewish people in Arab countries that led to the Mizrahim exodus, or the mass movement of Arab Jews to Israel in search of safety.
  • Compiled by Sophie Tohl, Pat DeYoung, Nicholas Dynin, Maya Horowitz, Emily Bender, and Jake Namaroff

Six Day War and 1967 Refugee Crisis

  • Students put together an annotated bibliography covering the Six-Day War fought between Israel and its neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in June of 1967 and the resulting displacement within these states.
  • Compiled by Michael Scarlett and Eric Gorski

Refugee Crises in and from Asia during the 20th Century

Division of the Indian Sub-Continent After British Rule

  • Students researched the crises between West Pakistan and India as well as East Pakistan/Bangladesh and India, simultaneously analyzing the scant U.S. media coverage of these conflicts.
  • Compiled by Anish Kanoria, Emma Mertens, Eric Parlin, Lucas Steinburg, Morgan Simmons, Samanvaya Sharma, Saachi Jain, and Zachary Leazer

Korean Refugee Crisis

  • Students focused on the U.S. and international reception and portrayals of Korean War refugees starting from the beginning of the Korean War up to the present.
  • Compiled by Brendan Kieran, Brian Hauler, Lisset Magdaleno, Rachael Hall, and Maxim Jahns

Rohingya Refugees fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh

  • Students collected information about foreign involvement in the Rohingya refugee crisis, looking at both organizations such as the United Nations and Western news outlets’ fascination with these refugees.
  • Compiled by Mira Motani, Augusto Cividini, Margaret Donolo, Virginia Duncan, Lily Shell, Juliette Boberg, Janou Hooykaas, and Tatiana Londono

Vietnamese & Cambodian Refugee Crisis

  • Students wrote a series of blog posts mapping out the various stages of the 1970s refugee crisis brought on by the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, examining the causes of the refugee situation, the people affecte by it, and the types of reactions that were elicited from the press and various universities.
  • Compiled by Paige Amico, Emily Poehlein, Sara Seper, Megan Caveny, Bianca Zarella, Cecilia Bobbitt, Ashley LaMere, and Shiqi Lin

Refugees in China from 1937-1945

  • Students looked at the massive numbers of Chinese refugees due to Japanese occupational forces during WWII, focusing on the media coverage of the refugees in Western press and at Vassar.
  • Compiled by Andrew Wang and Angela Assante

Look at Life of Japanese Internment in the US

  • Students collected a series of photographs of Japanese internees at the American camps and pairing them with prejudiced and biased quotes from the LA Times during that time period.
  • Compiled by Emily Mitamura, Benjamin Goldstein, Shelia Hu, Sophie Asakura, Hannah Ornatowski, Flora Collins

Refugee Crises in Africa during the 20th Century

Rwandan Genocide in the Media

  • Students created a timeline and ‘syllabus’ on the Rwandan Genocide, specifically focusing on the language used in media coverage of the genocide at the time and how the way that the genocide was framed in the press had a direct impact on the levels of international aid.
  • Compiled by Anna Abrams, Brielle Brook, Regina Ebo, Jasen Miyamoto, Amanda Saich, and Sophia Slater

Malian Refugee Crisis

  • Students studied the environmental aspects to the Malian refugee crisis and how environmental problems have a direct effect on the geopolitical problems of a region, directly leading to displacement.
  • Compiled by Alex Charnov, Alex Sams, and Zoe Walker

Sudanese Refugee Crisis

  • Students created a timeline of the flow of Sudanese refugees, considering the environmental issues that caused displacement as well as the foreign humanitarian response from organizations such as the United Nations.
  • Compiled by Sarah Mawhinney and Emily Chancey

Eritrean Refugee Crisis

  • Students wrote a report on Eritrean refugees from the early 1990’s to the present, examining the construction of narratives by foreign entities as well as the local government that shapes policy outcomes, also considering the narratives that are routinely ignored.
  • Compiled by Jesse Schatz, Justin Nam, Ana Castillo James, and Natasha “Sara” Lobo

Refugees During the Cold War

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution

  • Students researched the Western media’s response to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and ensuing refugee movements, specifically looking at how different media outlets represented the crisis and the refugees for a Western audience.
  • Compiled by Kidus Girma, Maria Cali, Fiona Harbert, Maryam Norton, Fiona Brodie, Grace Findlen-Golden, and Sonia Inam

The 1980 Mariel Boatlift

  • Students covered the exodus out of Cuba surrounding the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, focusing on news coverage of the event from the American, Cuban, and Vassar-related media.
  • Compiled by Noble Ingram, Mary Talbot, Addison Tate, Jayce Rudig-Leathers, and Pearl Karliner-Li

1980s Exodus of Russian Jews from the Former Soviet Union

  • Students examined the history of Jews in the former Soviet Union, the Soviet government’s efforts to push out the Jews, and the resulting displacement and resettlement of the Jewish Soviets.
  • Compiled by Robyn Lin, Eliana Marcus-Tyler, Christina Griesmer, Anthony Salvaggio, Nora I. Kyrkjebø, Hope Challenger, and Elizabeth Snyder