Communication Studies Students to Host Refugee Crisis Panel Discussion
Communication Studies majors Eunice Reyes, junior, and Juleanna Smith, senior, will host a panel discussion titled, “Redefining 'Refugee': Stories from a Global Crisis” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15 in Rm. 340 Franklin Hall (FirstEnergy Auditorium).
Panelists will discuss how the global refugee crisis impacts Kent State students and people around the world. Five panelists will explore ways people can help in alleviating the predominant controversy surrounding the topic.
Panelists include: Eka Anthony, a former refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo; Anuj Gurung, a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science Department at Kent State University; Brooke Davis, United States Middle Eastern Regional Vice President for International Justice Mission’s (IJM) National Student Leadership Team (NSLT) and communication studies major; Ka Thi Sa (Kathy), a former refugee from Thailand; Neema Tamang, a Nepali interpreter who grew up in a refugee camp in Eastern Nepal for 17 years. College of Communication and Information (CCI) senior Daniel Henderson, creator and co-host of CCI Global’s podcast “World Class,” will moderate the discussion.
Reyes, Smith and Davis share what they hope is achieved by the discussion at this event.
This event grew out of an assignment in your Communication and Influence course. What problem did you discover in your project research that you hope will be solved with this event and/or your awareness campaign?
Reyes: “This event is designed to address misinformation as well as take the focus from a mass scale and redefine the narrative in a way that brings attention to the individuals who have been affected by this crisis. There’s a lot of coverage about the refugee crisis in the media, but sometimes the information is hard to process. Even if people are informed and interested in addressing the issue, they may not always know how. By inviting former refugees, organization leaders and experts to speak about the topic, this event creates a way for the KSU student populace to process and understand the global crisis. This event titled, “Redefining ‘Refugee’” is intended to convey the message that a refugee isn’t just a statistic; they’re not just another news story; and they’re not just a cause for political debate, but individuals with their own unique stories and experiences.
“We hope to shed light on those stories by providing former refugees the platform to define their own narrative, as well as allowing experts to equip students with the skills and knowledge to address this issue head on.”
What do you hope to learn at the event about the specific topic?
Reyes: “A lot of conversation about what to do about the refugee crisis often fails to include refugees themselves, so I hope to learn what Eka, Neema and Kathy believe to be solutions to the current challenges. I also hope to learn what was helpful to them from their personal experiences and what wasn't.”
Smith: “I hope to learn more about the direct impact that this crisis has had on each panelist and how the crisis is impacting others who are not directly involved. I am interested in hearing all of the panelists’ stories and seeing the reactions from the audience. I also hope to hear some of the thoughts that the audience holds about the topic and if those thoughts changed after hearing the stories.”
How have your communication class(es) prepared you to plan the event?
Reyes: “My communication classes such as Intercultural Communication, Media Use and Effects, and Everyday Interpersonal Communication and Health are just a few courses that were key in informing this event. Intercultural Communication introduced to me Intergroup Contact Theory which proposes that contact between in-groups and out-groups can reduce prejudice. Media Use and Effects taught me the various ways in which media can affect the way people receive and process information. Everyday Interpersonal Communication and Health was the class in which I learned about stigma reduction techniques. Communication and Influence, which is the class that requires this campaign, teaches us primarily about persuasive communication and all the facets within that spectrum.”
Smith: “My communication classes have prepared me to plan the event by teaching me the theories needed to implement an effective campaign. My classes have given me the tools to create messages directed toward my target audience.”
Brooke, what do you hope to achieve from being a panelist?
Davis: “By being a part of this panel, I hope to learn more about the refugee crisis from those who have experienced it first-hand. I am looking forward to hearing the stories of my fellow panelists so I may better understand the issue myself and go onto to share their stories with others in order to influence change. I am hoping to motivate students to do three things to take action on behalf of refugees in our world:
1. Give our resources. Yes, this means giving money to the cause. Not many people like hearing this call to action, but it's one of the most effective ways to help.
2. Take time to write to members of Congress and tell them that their constituents care about the crisis and want appropriate action taken. There is so much power in this.
3. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.”
Brooke, how have your communication class(es) prepared you to be a panelist?
Davis: “My communication classes have taught me the power and influence of using my voice. They have taught me the power of courageous persuasion and helped implement rhetorical strategies into speaking on the behalf of those who feel as though their voice does not matter. However, communication studies has also taught me to be cautious when experiencing concern for others. There is great risk in advocacy in that thoughtful communicators must be careful about how we induce and react to another person's situation. We must be careful not to generalize experiences to a whole group. Every person’s story is as unique as the person to whom it belongs. I learned my emotional responses must also contain respect in order to avoid patronizing behavior, condescension and overreaction.
“Communication studies has taught me the power of words, but more importantly, how to listen to the words of others.”
In your opinion, what is the solution to the refugee crisis?
Reyes: “In my opinion, the refugee crisis is entirely too complicated to have a one sentence solution, but I believe that knowledge, understanding and acceptance have large roles to play in alleviating this issue.”
Smith: “My solution to the refugee crisis is building awareness about the topic and stopping the spread of misinformation.”
Davis: “If someone is serious about helping put an end to the refugee crisis, give money if you cannot be the one to go out into the hard places and bring rescue to victims; if you are willing to go out and bring rescue, then go do it, and do it fearlessly. 'Raising awareness' is not enough. Our resources, action and power to engage with government officials will bring refugees peace and freedom. Sitting on your computer making posts about how deep your empathy is for refugees will not.”
Sponsored by CCI Global and the International Institute of Akron (IIA), the panel discussion is free and open to the public.
About the International Institute of Akron
The International Institute of Akron (IIA) is a leader in the ever-expanding international community in Summit County, Ohio. A nonprofit agency founded in 1916, IIA welcomes new Americans to Akron to make our community their home. The mission is to contribute to the well-being of our community by creating and implementing programs and services that assist those born outside the United States to integrate into American society. We work to promote public awareness of the value of ethnic diversity and to encourage international communication.