Published: October 26, 2016
With expertise in everything from deportation defense to the multifaceted psychological and health care needs of refugees, faculty for this groundbreaking course include:
Saybrook’s Dr. Kent Becker says his expertise in photovoice methodology—a social justice-driven, group analysis approach to research that examines individual and community stories through photographs—will play a critical role in how he will teach students to interpret and understand the immigrant experience.
“Immigration has multiple layers which will be represented by our cross-affiliate approach to this course and study-abroad experience. We will be shifting from lens to lens in our attempts to better understand how to best serve those living the immigrant experience,” says Dr. Becker, dean of the College of Social Sciences with more than 20 years of experience in counseling. In that time, he has cultivated a specialty in using photovoice as a research and advisory tool toward social change.
“From a photovoice methods perspective, we will listen for the points of interaction—when health, law, psychology, education, etc., intersect in the stories of participants. My hope is that through this methodology, students will understand the importance of the individual and community stories as a critical component within the process of informing meaningful change.”
With experience working for such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International USA, Dr. Nancy Bothne understands that immigration is a complex issue with a broad spectrum of needs as people go through phases of the process.
“Their legal, health, and educational statuses intersect, affecting how individuals and their families are able to adjust to the challenges they face pre-migration, during migration, and post-migration,” explains Dr. Bothne, an assistant professor in clinical psychology who has devoted a majority of her career to utilizing policy and advocacy strategies to change systems that perpetuate human rights abuses and marginalize people. “For example, someone who is at risk of persecution may have asylum rather than refugee status. That affects what kinds of legal documents they might need to provide their asylum, their experiences of trauma, and ongoing health issues. It is important that those professionals who work with immigrants have at least a minimum understanding of how and to what immigrants are vulnerable. That’s what this course will offer.”
Director of Nursing for Dallas Nursing Institute’s associate degree programs, Gwen Gaston says her experience opening a refugee clinic in Michigan showed her how vital health care is to this population. It also reinforced what she already knew about the importance of cross-cultural communication in nursing.
“Cultural sensitivity is a complex subject. In an attempt to better serve our migrant and refugee communities, it is important to develop a set of skills that enable the provider to learn about and get to know populations different from their own,” explains Gaston, who has more than two decades of experience leading nursing education teams with a specialty in diversity issues. “Students in this course will gain insight regarding how patients’ cultural attitudes may dictate the practices they use to maintain their health—and how the trauma they are experiencing on many levels impacts every aspect of the immigrant experience.”
An adjunct professor of Evidence, Criminal Defense Practice, and Deportation Defense at The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law, Hanley has spent more than a decade practicing immigration law and deportation defense. He believes an interdisciplinary approach to these important issues is more critical than ever, particularly for those entering the legal profession.
“The need to understand the culture, psychology, and underlying social needs of asylum seekers is as essential to the legal practitioner as to the practitioner of psychology, social work, or nursing,” says Hanley, who spent more than 10 years as a senior public defender in Santa Barbara. “Just as nurses or social workers working with asylum seekers enhance their effective skill set by learning the basic laws of international asylum, law students and lawyers enhance their effectiveness as legal advocates when they gain knowledge of their clients’ cultural, psychological, social, and medical needs.”
A specialist in immigration and acculturation, Dr. Rojas has been a practicing licensed psychologist for nearly 20 years. While such a multidisciplinary approach to a topic is unusual in higher education settings, she believes it’s necessary.
“Typically, each profession looks at an aspect of an event or situation from their expertise, which often does not give a full picture or necessary context to more fully understand how situations are interconnected and influence each other,” says Dr. Rojas, a member of the core faculty in Pacific Oaks’ School of Cultural and Family Psychology. “For example, dealing with legal issues related to immigration can be stressful and influence mental and physical health. When one is experiencing anxiety, it is difficult to concentrate and learn in a classroom.”
She describes this course as a “wraparound” view on the topic of immigration, something that has rarely been attempted in one class.
“The study abroad global component will highlight the fact that immigration is a global phenomenon, with similar issues and questions that need to be addressed by all countries hosting immigrants,” Dr. Rojas adds. “The experiential learning component in Germany will provide a deeper understanding of immigration issues in a way that reading and writing about the topic can’t provide. It will give students the opportunity to witness the human struggles that are part of the immigration process.”