Refugee, Migrant, and Displaced Populations

Katie Randall (right) and Katy Powell (left) pictured with the United Nations’s Deputy High Commissioner of Refugees Kelly Clements, a VT alumn! All attended the International Refugee Research conference at the Akademie fur Politische Bildung in Tutzing, Germany to discuss best practices for working on refugee integration.

Faculty and students are involved in several research projects and outreach activities with recently resettled families in the Blacksburg and New River Valley areas. Collaborating with faculty, staff, and students from across the University including History, Science and Technology in Society, the School of Public and International Affairs, the Moss Arts Center, the School of Architecture and Urban Studies, the School of Visual Arts, the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience, and the Office of International Research, Education, & Development, the Center also works with several service agencies and volunteers from the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership, the Roanoke Refugee Partnership, the regional Office of Refugee Resettlement, Blue Ridge Literacy, and others to engage in community activities and reciprocal research. Forming the New River Valley Refugee Research Coalition, all involved are interested in providing services, opportunities, and intentional activities to generate equitable access to resources and evidenced-base data.  An oral history project related to this research has received seed funding from ISCE and from the Voice of Witness Foundation. Members of the group are also part of Virginia Tech’s International Refugee Research Project, coordinated by SPIA. In addition, the group belongs to the University Alliance for Refugees and Migrants at Risk, which held a launch conference at Rutgers in June. See news about this group in the Chronicle of Higher Education


Blacksburg Refugee Partnership

Many graduate and undergraduate students and faculty across the university volunteer with the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership (BRP), a non-profit organization committed to hosting refugee families in the area.  The Center partners with this group, hosting several community events to welcome new community members.  With this partnership, we are in the early stages of an oral history project funded by the Voice of Witness Foundation, where community members can record their stories and participate in a number of arts, writing, and music activities.  In addition to the BRP, the Center has partnered with the Moss Arts Center to engage newly resettled families through the arts and music.




Resettlement Stories: Place, Identity, and Narrative as Evidence-based Data for Policy Change

Refugee/migrant integration is traditionally analyzed through legal rights, self-sufficiency, and belonging using urban area large data sets. These approaches do not identify complexities of refugee integration nor capture nuanced community challenges. We study integration experiences for refugees/migrants andcommunities through what we call “integration network analysis.” Our novel method uses long form oral history interview data from resettled families, volunteers, and service programs and complements this with semantic network analysis to extract central concepts and themes, which can yield comparative analysis accounting for perspectives of the resettled, perspectives not captured in existing data sets, providing evidence-based recommendations for policy makers.



Voice of Witness Foundation, VT Policy Strategic Growth Area Planning Grant


Powell, Katrina M. and Katherine Randall. “Community Workshops and Rhetorics of Home in the Stories of Persons Seeking Refuge.” albeit: Journal of teaching and scholarship5.1 (2018). Web.


Katrina M. Powell. “Displacement.” Margins Conference Keynote Speaker, Clemson University, March 31, 2018.

Katrina M. Powell. “Tent Cities, Resettlement Housing, & Rhetorical Constructions of Home in Narratives of Displacement.” Temple Univ. Humanities Center Invited Speaker, Feb. 2018.

Katrina M. Powell. “Identity and Displacement.” Roanoke College Refugee Panel, October 25, 2017.

Powell, Katrina M. Khaled Hassouna, Katherine Randall. “Tools of Integration: A Case Study of the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership.” International Refugee Research Conference, Tutzing, Germany, March 2018.

Powell, Katrina M. and Katherine Randall. “Persons Seeking Refuge, Community Workshops, and Rhetorics of Place.” Rhetoric Society of America, Atlanta, GA, June 2018.

Panel: “Living our Rhetoric: Howe Research Centers can Bridge the Academic and Public Work of Rhetoric.” Conference on College Composition and Communication. Kansas City, MO, March 2018. Powell, Katrina M. “The labor of the public turn: research, engagement, and (the ethics of) transforming communities.” Katherine Randall “Languaging at the Public Table: The Responsibility of Rhetoric Centers in Supporting Community Work.” Alexis Priestley “Doing Rhetoric: Cultivating and Networking an Octologian Space.” Carolyn Commer “An Octalogic Pedagogy for Graduate Education in Rhetoric & Composition.”

Powell, Katrina M. Khaled Hassouna, Brett Shadle, Jon Catherwood-Ginn, Laura McCarter, Katherine Randall, and Jane Wemhoener. “Refugee Integration.” International Refugee Research, Arlington Research Center, October 2017.