Academic Community Engagement, Political Science, School of Liberal Arts

Through artistic expression and collaborative projects, refugees living in the Albany area shared their experiences about their new lives in America in a local exhibit organized by a Siena student working through the office of Academic Community Engagement (ACE). 

As part of her work on the Refugee Voice SPIn team, Theologjia Sofi ’23 organized “We Are the Change,” a community day to celebrate the personal journeys of the newcomers and connect local partner organizations committed to helping them. It was held July 23 at the Opalka Gallery on the Albany campus of Russell Sage College. The event was the culmination of the team’s three-year project term.

Sofi said the most important goal of the event, attended by more than 125 people, was to increase interaction and volunteerism to better serve the local refugee population.

“We wanted to take people beyond awareness of the various groups and the work they do, and enhance interaction and get more people signed up to volunteer,” she said.

The community partners included an intercultural café, the Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) program, the San Damiano writing partnership, the Muslim Soup Kitchen, and Albany’s Refugee Welcome Center. Artwork by refugee adults and students was on display, and those gathered also viewed the powerful video project “Babylon: A Journey of Refugees,” which explored how immigrants and refugees can access a college education. There was a panel presentation featuring Sofi and Elham Malik '22, who shared the impact of migration on their own families.

Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Ph.D., middle. 

Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Ph.D., professor of political science and international relations, is the team’s faculty advisor. 

“I'm extremely proud of the team and its collaboration with refugees, resettled families, and community organizations,” she said. “This event created opportunities for digital storytelling, photography, personal expressions through paintings and drawings, and highlighted traditional textile, basket making, and knitting arts.”

Interested in volunteering with one of the local refugee organizations? Take a minute to complete this information form.