A group of 20 students gathered in a Holland classroom on March 16 to discuss a potential new major at St. Olaf. The program would center on forced migration, refugee, and displacement studies. The student leaders of this program, Hanane Idihoum ’23 and Caroline Geer ’24 wrote in an email, “our initiative is born out of a pressing need to examine and acknowledge the lived experiences of refugees, forced migrants, and displaced individuals worldwide, but also on our very campus.”
In the March 16 meeting, students were invited to share their thoughts and discuss prepared discussion questions about the new proposed major. Many of the conversations surrounded the implementation of the program and the moral implications of the displacement studies’ different sectors. “[It] is meant to examine these experiences beyond the reductionist limits of war and aims to be transdisciplinary in nature. Courses and learning experiences within the program will examine the effects of colonization, neocolonialism, capitalism, neoliberalism, ghettoization, gentrification, militarization, and mass incarceration on the lives and experiences of millions around the world,” continued Geer and Idihoum. Many of these stated themes were explored by students at the meeting with the intention of developing the proposed major.
This was the second of a series of meetings about the proposed study set up by the students and staff supporting the idea. The
first meeting was held by Geer, Idihoum, and staff members interested in the program. At this meeting, the staff discussed the logistics of creating a new major and the implications of the new five to six credit per year policy on campus, which reduces the amount of classes that each professor is allowed to teach.
A third meeting with Minneapolis community leaders involved in immigration, refugee, or displacement programs is expected to take place this semester. This is in an effort to gain more knowledge about the experiences of displaced people from experts who have more practical field experience. There is also a potential study away component for displacement studies and these partners could play a role in that part of the program.
For students interested in this new proposed major, Geer and Idihoum encourage people to show interest in tangible ways by going to meetings, asking professors, or sharing the news. Details will continue to be released when more information is available about the program.