Mission Moment

Sarah Signorino, director, Mission & Identity

January 24, 2019

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Canisius launched a Borders and Migrations Initiative last year born out of Dr. Richard Reitsma’s early career experiences in the migrant fields of Michigan, his ongoing research on Latinos in the US, and his participation over the last several years in Campus Ministry Immersion trips to El Salvador and the Kino Border Initiative. 

The Borders and Migrations Initiative grew to include a group of faculty, staff, administrators, and students who were inspired by the Ignatian call to a faith that does justice. This group planned an inaugural “Borders and Migrations Week” with events that would call attention to Canisius’ location as one of only two Jesuit colleges on a US border, recall Canisius’ own heritage as a college founded to serve immigrants to Buffalo (German and Polish), and celebrate the resurgence of Buffalo which has been powered in many respects by the influx of refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants. The initiative brought together faculty, students, and staff from across disciplines, as well as other local colleges and community activists, for a collaborative series of events this past October. The initiative was meant to inform, encourage discussion about, and increase engagement with, refugee and immigration issues on a global scale, always mindful of our local realities.

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Library display of the "Things They Carry"

Fall events included:

·         A staged reading of the play: Mojada: A Medea in Chicago (by Luis Alfaro)

·         Migrant Mass in Christ the King Chapel with the Office of Campus Ministry

·         Multimedia opening reception: library collections, photo gallery & reflections of the Kino Border Initiative Immersion Trip, video & analog games about migration, an art display, and a visual stage of “What They Carry with Them”

·         Roundtable discussion with Canisius faculty & alumnae, and local activists & experts

·         Film screenings and discussions of Through the Repellent Fence and Running Fence

·         A student activity featuring music and food from immigrant groups

·         Discussion of new service learning opportunities in the field

·         Roundtable with the artists and community leaders producing a Niagara Street mural project representing Buffalo’s migration history; and 

·         Closing reception with a local artist.

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Borders and Migrations Week - Migrant Mass

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Borders and Migrations Week - Migration Panel

The library displays were used in a variety of class activities beyond opening night. Students from various classes conducted different activities and reflections with the displays and games. The initiative also introduced a trained team to conduct an immigration simulation, modeled on that created by the Kino Border Initiative. This team of students, faculty, and staff can incorporate an immigration simulation as a pedagogical method in classes or for clubs and other organizations.

Energy and education around migrations and borders continues in 2019 with a spring week, April 1-5, and fall week, October 20-26. April events will include an exhibit and talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Jose Galvez, and a panel on migrant access to education.

For more information, please visit the Borders and Migrations website or contact Dr. Reitsma, chair of Modern Languages, at reitsmar@canisius.edu or 716-888-2408.