January 21, 2011
A less-industrialized nation, such as Mexico, may be more welcoming to refugees than a first-world country, such as Denmark, according to research by a recent Knox College graduate who has won an award for her study of the problems faced by women who leave their home countries in search of economic opportunity or political asylum.
Marquez credits Knox faculty who mentored her research, which won College Honors. "My work focused on both international relations and sociology, and my professors were very helpful as I did the planning and writing for the project." Amy Singer, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, advised Marquez and chaired the faculty committee that evaluated the project. The other faculty on the committee were Karen Kampwirth, professor of political science and international relations, and Magali Roy-Fequiere, associate professor of gender and women's studies,
Marquez's project involved study and work with refugees in Denmark and Mexico. "Ana examined the impact of different government policies toward refugees and the differences in the experience of integrating into a third world vs. a first world country," Kampwirth said. "Ana made the surprising finding that it was easier in many ways for the women who took refuge in a third world country."
An international relations major, Marquez graduated from Knox this past June. She is currently working with a program in Mexico that provides educational outreach and assistance for underprivileged women and youth.
Photos: Right, Ana Marquez; above, discussing earlier community-based research at an on-campus poster presentation.
The Forum is an international organization that promotes study abroad. Approximately 90 percent of students in American colleges and universities who study outside the United States attend a school that belongs to the Forum.
Helping build better societies
During her junior year at Knox, Marquez attended a program in Copenhagen through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. As part of a service learning seminar, she began working with female refugees at a mental health center. Later that year, worked as a volunteer for an Amnesty International refugee program in Mexico. The stories told to her by the women she interviewed became the basis of her College Honors project, "Integration, Gender, and Complexity: A Study of Refugee Women in Denmark and Mexico."
Marquez compares the cultural, economic, and social integration of refugee women in the two countries. "Borders are becoming increasingly porous," Marquez says. "If we can understand how people move across borders and adapt to their new societies, it will help us build more societies free of racism, discrimination and intolerance."
Marquez said that several of her courses helped her plan and develop her research. "The experience that shaped my project the most was 'Cross-Cultural Encounters in a European Context," a class I took in Denmark that dealt with issues of national identity, culture, migration and asylum. I had a Service Learning Seminar where I met many of the people that I later interviewed in my research project."
Dialogue: a powerful tool against discrimination
Outside of class, Marquez says, "being a part of the International Club at Knox helped me to get a better grasp of how my friends lived in other countries, particularly friends from Africa and Asia -- continents that I have not had the opportunity to visit."
Marquez, who came to Knox from Mexico City, is currently working with a program in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, that helps underprivileged youth and women in the areas of health, the environment, and prevention of violence. Marquez says that her research demonstrated "how dialogue is a powerful tool against discrimination, distrust and social fragmentation."
Marquez and this year's other winner, Alyssa Irizarry, a 2010 graduate of Tufts University, were selected from among more than 40 nominees by faculty from Forum-member institutions, who judged their projects to be the best examples of the highest quality academic research of undergraduates studying abroad. The students will present their work on April 8, 2011 at a plenary session at the Forum's annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
"These winning research projects demonstrate that international learning informs many academic and professional fields and are testimony to students' understanding of other cultures and societies," the Forum said in its award announcement.
Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.