By Stephanie Russell, Ed.D., Vice President & Consultant for Mission Integration, AJCU
Never, in living memory, has the issue of forced migration been more pressing in our country and world. The United Nations reported in June that an alarming 68.5 million people have been displaced from their homes – more than at any time since World War II. For the faculty and staff of Jesuit colleges and universities, this is more than a political crisis or a human rights statistic. Seeking to be true to our foundational mission, we hold in our mind’s eye the significance of every person stripped of dignity, work and land; of every child torn from home; of every community unmoored and dispersed, perhaps forever. It is not simply our social responsibility: it is our sacred obligation to place our minds, hearts and labors where the human family needs them most.
Of course, scholars at Jesuit institutions have, for many years, been engaged in research on various aspects of migration – from threats to the health and safety of refugees, to the inaccessibility of education, to environmental precipitators of forced displacement. Some faculty members have formed collaborative networks, across university and national boundaries, and even gathered in-person to generate common research projects around migration in a specific region.
As the plight of migrants has worsened and widened over the past two years, however, requests from faculty at Jesuit schools for a collaborative, academic infrastructure have become more urgent. “How,” they ask, “can we find and work with faculty at Jesuit schools, at home and abroad, to put the full force of Jesuit higher education at the service of those who are forcibly displaced?”
As one response, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) has launched a new Migration Research Directory. This online tool (built on a searchable, open-access platform) allows faculty to list their research interests, along with articles, video lectures and other scholarly links. The result is a rich academic resource for faculty at Jesuit colleges and universities around the globe, as well as NGOs, lawmakers and all citizens concerned about migration issues.
The AJCU Migration Research Directory began as a U.S.-based project, and has quickly attracted the attention and involvement of scholars from international Jesuit institutions. Its current roster of 310 scholars is growing steadily, and includes faculty members from Latin America, Asia and Europe. Creating a truly international resource requires some adaptation along the way. Some scholars in Latin America, for example, typically forge closer bonds between research and advocacy than what scholars customarily do in the United States. Identifying these academic emphases and differences helps everyone involved to work more effectively, across cultures.
Beyond higher education, the Jesuit network of social centers, research institutes, high schools, parishes and other works can all benefit from the resources found in the directory. As colleagues at these institutions share their needs for research that would benefit migrants in their communities, the academy becomes better informed about the crucial concerns of those who are displaced. This connection between researchers and those “in the field” is an invaluable asset of the Jesuit network.
If you are a faculty member engaged in research that connects in any way to issues of migration, refugees or forced displacement, we strongly encourage you to join the Migration Research Directory. Every participating faculty member enriches the project and makes it more useful to others. Similarly, members of the global Jesuit network are warmly welcome to search the directory and share it widely. Please help us realize the potential of this resource, and respond even more clearly to the needs of migrants and refugees in our world.