The University of Iowa

Refugees in the Heartland Resources

The Provost's Global Forum: Refugees in the Heartland conference was a great success, thanks to the many presenters, attendees, staff and volunteers who gave generously of their time and expertise to share their experiences with others. We are grateful for their efforts and thank everyone for their willing to share materials with us which can be found on this page.

Watch, or listen to, recordings of the Keynote Speech and Friday morning sessions by going to the City Channel 4 streaming media page.  Enter "refugee" in the search field to see a list of the available programs.

Comments from some of the presenters and attendees:

From Zeljka Krvavica, Employment Specialist, Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services:

“As a refugee from Bosnia who came to Iowa in 1993, as well as someone who for the past 20 years has been working with refugees from all over the world who found their new home in this great state, I can only express my heartfelt support for the exceptional work the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, its Deputy Director, Ms. Amy Weismann and her staff did to make this Conference welcoming and highly informative.

Conferences like Refugees in the Heartland are much needed in our region, not only by refugees themselves but also by various and numerous refugee service providers. The future University of Iowa involvement via the UI Center for Human Rights to provide learning, community building and capacity building opportunities for refugees and those providing assistance to refugees regionally is absolutely vital.”

From Larry Yungk, Senior Resettlement Officer, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees:

“I want to take this opportunity to thank you for including UNHCR as part of your "Refugees in the Heartland" events… It was inspirational to hear from refugees about their experience in the US, and from those who are directly helping refugees in their communities.   The persons who you had participating represented a great cross-section of both groups.   I am particularly heartened by the fact that such a conference was organized by a university, as I strongly believe that refugee resettlement and protection could benefit by more collaboration with research institutions…. I also want to express my appreciation for the Saturday meetings with the focus on refugee participation.   I believe there was a great deal of useful information exchanged in the meetings, and this will help us better inform our plans for the next Refugee Congress… I will note also, that several refugees had commented that the workshop with [author] Kao Kalia Yang had been a highlight for them.   To my knowledge, this was the first writer workshop I have seen at a refugee conference and it something I will certainly suggest for others to emulate.”

From Charity Tooze, Celebrity Relations and Special Projects, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees:

“I was thrilled that some of the initial discussions Amy [Weismann] and I had to integrate refugee congress members bore fruit.  … On a personal note, It was refreshing, as a Midwesterner, to be in Iowa City.  I was impressed by the campus, the vision of the international programs and the accessibility of each of you.”

Brianna Petersen Photography
The Cultural Fair started the conference in the late afternoon of April 4 and offered music, dancing, food, poetry and more in the Old Capitol Museum. The fair was followed by the keynote speech given by Ambassador Kenneth Quinn who told the story of the proud history of refugee resettlement in Iowa under former Governor Robert Ray. 

Friday, April 5 began with "Refugees and Asylees 101", with presenters Linda Hartke, Larry Yungk, Deepinder Mayell and Vinh Nguyen.  Slides used by Larry Yungk can be found here.

The next presentation was "Refugees in the Midwest: Who, When and How" with presenters John Wilken, Mark Grey, Michele Devlin, Mary George and Amy Hughes. Slides used by John Wilken can be found here. Slides used by Amy Hughes can be found here.

The final Friday morning sessions were "Now My Future Begins: Stories of Resettlement and Integration in the Midwest" with presenters Fatuma Elmi and Michele Garnett McKenzie and "Story Two: Bosnians in Waterloo/Cedar Falls and Des Moines" with presenters Ryan Haynes, Mak Suceska and Zeljka Krvavica.

Friday afternoon sessions included "Story Three: Ethnic Minority Burmese in Waterloo, Columbus Junction and Des Moines" with presenters Mu Law, Thway Paw, and Henny Ohr; Cristina Ortiz, Chaplain Rick Rustad, and Angela Graham;  "The Future of Refugee and Asylee Policy: The Consequences of Comprehensive Immigration Reform for Refugees and Asylum Seekers" with presenters Linda Hartke, Michele Garnett McKenzie, Bassel el Kasaby, and Alexis Perlmutter, then "What You Can Do to Make Your Community a Welcoming One: Challenges, Contributions and Community Responses" with presenters Nicholas Wuertz, Abby Freese and Christa Yoakum. Handouts created by Jill Tomkins, the session moderator can be found at Recommended Books About Refugee Issues and How You Can Help. The final afternoon session was Iowa Youth Writing Project with Emily Seiple and several of her student readers.

Friday evening's event was a live production of World Canvass with host Joan Kjaer and featured guests in various segments of the program: Larry Yungk, Linda Hartke, Deepinder Mayell; special guest Alek Wek; Ann Marie Kudlacz, Alexis Perlmutter; Fatuma Elmi, Amir Hadzic and Amy Weismann; Larry Yungke, Michele Garnett McKenzie; and Kao Kalia Yang. Listen to WorldCanvass.

Saturday morning was the Summit/Convening: Setting a Responsive Advocacy Agenda from the Midwest featuring Amy Weismann and Deepinder Mayell/Michele Garnett McKenzie, Fidel Nshombo, Hadidja Nyiransekuye and Larry Yungk. There was a panel discussion by Abbie Freese and Billie Marchik; and Zoya Kolkin. The afternoon consisted of several breakout sessions with the Advocates for Human Rights whose slides are available here and identification of goals for action as a declaration from the convening. Kao Kalia Yang taught an invitation only workshop on Memoir Writing for refugee writers.