College of Arts and Sciences faculty work to welcome Afghan refugees
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
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Over the past several years, Drs. Steph Link, Ho’omana Nathan Horton and Michael Amory from the Oklahoma State University Department of English have worked with the Afghan Resettlement Program within the English Language and Intercultural Center (ELIC) on OSU’s Stillwater campus.
What started as reviving the language learning program soon became a central hub for 72 Afghan refugees.
“Our primary responsibility, in the beginning, was English language services,” said Amory, who served as the ELIC interim director in 2021-22. “We would help individuals become valued members of the community and develop the language needed for employment.”
The OSU and Stillwater communities provided the professors with added support, which led to a Community Engagement Award from the College of Education and Human Sciences and the development of OSU Compassionate Afghan Resettlement and English Services (OSU CARES).
“Not only did we have the capacity to provide resources, but we were able to centralize a lot of services, so people knew exactly where to go to get help,” said Link, who served as the director of OSU CARES.
In addition to their Community Engagement Award, OSU CARES received federal funds in 2022 from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
Due to the initial efforts of the College of Arts and Sciences professors — and in collaboration with the Dean Randy Kluver of OSU Global — OSU is now an Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) campus, which ensures other refugees can come to the university to get the resources they need.
Another CAS faculty member doing work with Afghan refugees is adjunct professor of Islamic Studies Adam Soltani. He has served as the executive director of Oklahoma Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for more than 10 years, so when Catholic Charities approached the council in 2021 to help welcome Afghans to Oklahoma, Soltani was there to answer the call.
“Our biggest accomplishment through our refugee support is ensuring that the new Afghan community of Oklahoma knows that our state is a safe place where their religion, culture and identity are protected,” Soltani said. “We want them to know that we welcome them holistically, and we want to learn as much about their culture and identity as we want to share ours with them.”
In addition to his work with the CAIR, Soltani was recognized as one of the Top 50 Young Professionals in Oklahoma City and received the 2022 Humanitarian Award from The Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma.
“I am beginning to see the fruits of this labor in which the Okie and Afghan identities are melding together to become something beautiful, unique and something to be celebrated,” he said.
Story By: Allie Putman | CONNECT magazine