Author: Jordan Rogers and Dr. Özlem Altıok
On November 13th, 2019, UNT Career Connect partnered with the Multicultural Center to co-host an event showcasing the work of students enrolled in the Gender and Globalization, a course offered by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. The event was titled “Opening Doors for Social Justice.”
Career Connect partners with faculty and staff across campus who engage students in high- impact and meaningful practices such as the service-learning that took place in Dr. Özlem Altıok’s class. Through these partnerships, students collect their work in their ePortfolio, are given the opportunity to reflect on their experience, and they develop important marketable skills such as communication, critical thinking, and social responsibility.
Dr. Altıok’s students worked in partnership with two community organizations: Opening Doors International Services (ODIS) in Denton and Refugee Support Network (RSN).
ODIS offers low-cost services to people trying to navigate the immigration system. Dr. Altıok’s students volunteered at ODIS in a myriad of ways such as providing phone consultation to individuals interested in services, conducting phone and in-person intakes for individuals requesting support with their immigration status and paperwork, updating website content, offering clerical support, and developing a volunteer management system.
Each student was expected to put in sixteen hours of work in ODIS, but that was not all that they did. In addition, students were expected to conduct research to benefit the work of RSN’s pro se clinics, which are volunteer-run legal workshops to help asylum seekers who cannot afford a lawyer.
As part of their coursework, Dr. Altıok’s students compiled Country Conditions Reports to help asylum seekers that RSN serves. Through their research, students learned about the dire conditions that lead people to leave their home countries. Students’ reports on Guatemala and El Salvador have already been used by two asylum seekers who filed their cases in immigration courts in Texas. These valuable resources that Gender and Globalization students compiled will be used by community partners into the future as well as providing an example of how students’ skills and learning can be empowering not only for themselves but also for others.
The Opening Doors for Social Justice event was open to the public in the Multicultural Center on the 3rd floor of the Union where UNT students, faculty, staff, and members of the community were in attendance. The purpose of the event was to honor and celebrate students’ community-engaged work, raise awareness of immigration issues, share local resources, and come together as a community to support one another. Organized as a poster session, the event highlighted the research that students conducted on Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Venezuela, South Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Tibet, India, and Myanmar.
At the event, the students each spoke about their experiences volunteering with the community organizations and what their new awareness means for them personally and professionally. Some shared how this new awareness has inspired them to continue working with the organizations. Some reflected on how they crave to learn more and become more active in this community. And some students spoke about the people they met through this experience and how it has touched their lives in ways that are difficult to describe.
Dr. Altıok and the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program Dr. Alicia Re Cruz, spoke about how proud they were of their students and how their knowledge and service this semester has already had, and will continue to have, an impact. Andrés Pacheco of ODIS, and Ana Fores Tamayo and Melissa Kenfield of RSN shared their gratitude to the students for the work they have done. They emphasized the impact this partnership with Women’s and Gender Studies has had and will continue to have on their organization as well as the people who utilize their services.
Career Connect was honored to partner with the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and the Multicultural Center because it is evident how these types of experiences help UNT students find purpose and meaning in their education. The students in this class will be able to document this experience in their ePortfolio and reference it as a pivotal moment in their learning process. Connect partners with departments and programs across campus because it is so important to capture these important moments in a student’s college experience as they happen!
Dr. Altıok is a Connect Service-Learning grant recipient, for more information about partnering with Connect or learning about Connect grant opportunities, contact Jordan.email@example.com
To learn more about Connect at UNT, visit https://vpaa.unt.edu/careerconnect
To learn more about the community organizations and get involved:
Opening Doors International Services (ODIS) is located in Denton, TX and is a humanitarian agency that is US Department of Justice recognized. ODIS provides immigration assistance and humanitarian services for families and individuals in North Texas since 2003. Their team is Department of Justice accredited and they are considered specialists in immigration law providing legal representation to a variety of clients who may be domestic violence victims, human trafficking and torture survivors, individuals who are not designated as legal in their immigration status, individuals with physical and/or mental disabilities, children, and individuals of marginalized communities such as those who identify as LGBTQ+. Visit http://www.Odisinc.org for more information.
The Refugee Support Network organizes pro se clinics in North Texas supporting individuals seeking to represent themselves by walking participants through the preparation process and informing them of steps necessary to expect and take throughout legal proceedings. Pro se means “in one’s own behalf” referring to individuals representing themselves in court without the assistance of an attorney. For more information on RSN visit https://www.refugeesupport.net/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Other community organizations that support immigrants and refugees:
Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas http://www.vlsoct.org/pro-se-clinics/
The Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services https://www.raicestexas.org/