OSHKOSH – A University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor and his students are leading a first-of-its-kind study on long-term refugee resettlement successes and challenges in Wisconsin.
Paul Van Auken, chair of the UWO Sociology Department, said the study dives into how families who came to Wisconsin as refugees fare long-term. The group received a $50,000 grant from the WiSys Technology Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports research throughout the University of Wisconsin System.
Students will survey families and individuals and conduct in-depth interviews to learn about the challenges people with refugee backgrounds have faced in their new communities, as well as what helped them thrive and the kind of services most important to helping them do so. They will also interview service providers for added perspective, Van Auken said.
The study will include 100 people from the Fox Valley, 100 people from Milwaukee and 100 people from Madison, which are the top three sites for resettlement in Wisconsin, he said. Researchers are seeking a variety of people who arrived to Wisconsin at different times from different countries to answer a 56-question survey about migration and resettlement, services, economic factors, health, children and general experiences with relocating.
As there really hasn’t been any such research done on the topic, the findings will be a tool kit for anyone to access, Van Auken said. There’s potential to fill gaps in services, improve those that already exist and improve general resettlement infrastructure.
Tami McLaughlin, executive director of World Relief Fox Valley, an organization in Oshkosh that provides resettlement and other services to families who are refugees, said the study has the potential to provide some needed insights.
“I think the study is going to be extremely beneficial in revealing strengths and weaknesses regarding how we welcome refugees both on a specific service area as well as a broad perspective,” she said. “We are confident that refugees will thrive in the Fox Valley but we are open to learning and growing.”
The study started with the Oshkosh Resettlement Task Force reaching out to the university, and Van Auken began the work on it with his sociology class. Students have already identified a few barriers, including employment, language and differences in social interactions between cultures.
Van Auken hopes to complete the Fox Valley portion of the study by the end of December, the Milwaukee portion by the end of February and the Madison portion by the end of March.