KSU researchers and their community engagment partner awarded National Geographic Society grant to expand outreach efforts of migration studies book project

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sept. 6, 2018) -- Kennesaw State University researchers Paul McDaniel, Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez, and Lara Smith-Sitton, along with Tea Rozman Clark, executive director of Green Card Voices, received a research grant from the National Geographic Society. This grant will be used to continue their efforts in developing undergraduate curricula, public outreach materials, and community engagement events related to a recently published book on Atlanta youth immigration experiences.   

National Geographic logoTheir project, “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from an Atlanta High School,” borrows its title from the book, Rozman Clark, Rodriguez, and Smith-Sitton co-edited. The book is a collection of essays written in first-person by DeKalb County high school students who shared their migration journeys of acclimating to the U.S. Now plans are being made to extend beyond the book project into community-based educational and outreach initiatives to increase understanding of Atlanta’s migrant experiences.  

“Support from the National Geographic Society for this project and topic is timely, given the Atlanta metro region’s position as a major emerging gateway amid the ongoing changes occurring with immigration policy and discourse in the country more broadly,” said McDaniel, assistant professor of geography at KSU. “Initial support from several internal KSU grants paved the way for gaining external support for continuing the project’s momentum.” 

Some of the planned activities include using the book and its multimedia resources in KSU classrooms; creating and implementing a curriculum and study guide at the undergraduate level; presenting at research and topic-related conferences; and spearheading book readings, panel discussions and a traveling exhibit with the student authors at community venues and local events. For example, a book reading took place Aug. 30 at the KSU Museum of History and Holocaust Education during the opening reception of the new exhibit “Refuge or Refusal: Turning Points in U.S. Immigration History,” and another at the AJC Decatur Book Festival Sept. 1.  

The book idea was conceived when Green Card Voices, Rozman Clark’s Minnesota-based nonprofit organization, was seekingGreen Card Youth Voices book cover to branch out nationally after publishing first-person immigrant narratives primarily in the Midwest. After Rodriguez, assistant professor of social work and human services at KSU, obtained seed funding through a diversity fellowship from KSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the two began the multi-year project. McDaniel joined the effort as he already works with Rodriguez via the Georgia Immigration Research Network, which they co-founded in 2015 with other Atlanta area researchers.

Last fall, Rozman Clark was introduced to Atlanta organizations such as the Latin American Association and Welcoming America to help form local partnerships with the DeKalb County School District to identify and recruit the project participants. A total of 21 young people, representing 15 different countries, were interviewed via video and audio recordings to help them become more comfortable sharing their often private stories through such a public medium. 

“While we have done a book remotely before in Fargo, North Dakota 200 miles away, this one was across the country – 1,200 miles away,” said Rozman Clark. “We truly could not have done it without our KSU partners, and are very grateful for all their hard work.”

In the spring, Smith-Sitton, assistant professor and director of community engagement in KSU’s Department of English, worked with twenty-five undergraduate and graduate students in English and the professional writing program to complete the editorial process with the student authors before the book went to press in April.

“The enthusiasm for the project—both the substance of the editorial work as well as the research about the topic of immigration—was evident by strong student engagement,” said Smith-Sitton. “As this project moves forward, I look forward to the continued relationship with Green Card Voices, and the substantive research and reflection that will follow involving the faculty members, community partners, and students.”

Artists-in-residence from the Alliance Theater helped prepare the student authors for their first public speaking event when the official book launch was held at the venue in May. Another book reading took place at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights in June.

KSU researchers

Researchers - Paul McDaniel, Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez, and Lara Smith-Sitton - attended the Aug. 30 opening reception for the exhibit “Refuge or Refusal: Turning Points in U.S. Immigration History" at KSU's Museum of History and Holocaust Eduction. Three student authors read excerpts of their stories from the book during the program.

“Their stories, we believe, are a powerful tool that can help us reach the goal of being welcoming to both friends and foreigners,” said Rodriguez. “Our earnest hope is that just as these students shared their stories with one another, and discovered their collective humanity, our larger community can learn from them and do the same.”

Additional funding, which has been awarded throughout the project, included grants from KSU’s Office of Research and KSU’s Division of Global Affairs, and an external grant from the Kendeda Fund, a private family foundation in Atlanta.

“The team has been doing important research developing a better understanding of the experiences of migrants and the communities that accept them in greater Atlanta, an emerging gateway for immigration into the United States,” said Jonathan McMurry, KSU’s associate vice president for research. “The imprimatur of National Geographic Society funding for their research is not only evidence of the impact their work is having, but is also exemplary of the rapidly maturing research culture at Kennesaw State University.”

To purchase a copy of the book or access the multimedia resources, visit http://www.greencardvoices.com/book-youth-atlanta.

For more information about upcoming activities and events, visit http://girn.kennesaw.edu/projects/greencardyouthvoicesatlanta.php.

---Joëlle Walls