Five refugee scholars among new group of SIT graduate students

January 30th, 2017   |   SIT Graduate Institute

Photo - Kenneth Mukonyezi

BRATTLEBORO, Vermont – It’s a crisp, snowy day on SIT Graduate Institute’s flagship campus. White hills provide the backdrop outside the Lowey International Center, where 21 new students are starting their master’s degree programs in the spring 2017 semester.

This year, SIT returned to offering spring semester start dates for new students in most full-time, on-campus degree areas (TESOL and the Washington, DC-based Sustainable Development degrees begin in fall). The expanded schedule adds flexibility for students who may be finishing up fellowships or other commitments on the calendar year and would like to begin their studies right away. And while the Vermont campus may look a little snowier in January, inside the classrooms are warm, and busy as ever.

The new students are spread among four degree areas: seven in International Education, six in Conflict Transformation, four in Sustainable Development, and four in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management. Although SIT offers a range of degree formats, including low-residency and a new part-time degree option, most of these students have chosen to spend a year on campus and a second practicum year in the field working in their degree area.

There are 11 women and 10 men in the new student group, and they represent a broad cross-section of the world.  Twelve are from the United States and nine from other countries, including five refugees – from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, and Yemen – attending SIT Graduate Institute thanks to a new SIT Global Scholars program that offers them full scholarships.

One of the new Global Scholars is Kenneth Mukonyezi, who met SIT alumna Charla Burnett in Boston. Charla ran a fundraising drive for the Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights and invited Kenneth to speak at UMass Boston. “I reflected on where she got those morals,” Kenneth said. “I thought, ‘There has to be someone who instilled this sense of hope in her.’ When she told me about [SIT’s Global Scholars initiative], I said yes, gladly.”

Among the 12 U.S. students is Erin Guilliams of Lebanon, Penn., whose work in a public defender’s office sparked her interest in social justice. Erin said she heard about SIT Graduate Institute through friends in higher education. “Then I visited and loved it, and here I am!” she said. Erin is working toward a master’s degree in SIT’s Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management (SLM) program.

Another SLM student, Nick Brzezinski, who is originally from Detroit, also heard from friends about SIT. “I’ve moved around the U.S. a lot, working different jobs. Now I want a sustainable international career. I like that SIT has a robust career center, and there are such strong professionals here. SIT’s reach is global, and I want to plug into that global community.”