A Matter of Course: Global Politics of Migration

By George P. Matysek, Jr., ’94

A Matter of Course offers a snapshot of a current University class.

Taught by Janine Holc, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, this three-credit political science course examines why people move from their home communities to other places, often at great cost and personal risk.

One section of the course offers a service-learning option through which students work with and learn from recently migrated children at an after-school program called Soccer Without Borders and at the Immigration Outreach Service Center at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore. A second section is focused on library research, with students working with and learning from data on migration.

How does the section of the class that works with migrants differ from the section focused on library research?

The heart of the service-learning course is working with people who are refugees, or immigrants who are not refugees. We ask how the readings illuminate the students’ personal experiences with a person who has migrated.

In the class focused on library research, students work with data from the United Nations, the World Bank, and from scholars who have compiled trends and facts on migration. In both classes, our speakers have included activists working with people who have migrated. We also had a journalist from Nigeria who had been targeted by his government explain what it is like seeking asylum in the United States. 

What impact does working with a refugee or an immigrant have on students?

It’s pretty transformative. The U.S. State Department has identified Baltimore as one of only a few cities where people seeking refuge are resettled. The children who settle here carry the trauma of multiple dislocations and relocations in the United States.

My goal is not for students to come away with this course with political leanings either way, but for them to understand where to get data and facts on migration and have the experience of interacting with a person who has experienced migration.

Pope Francis has been a strong voice on issues of immigration and migration. How does that influence the discussion?

Our students are pretty attuned to Francis and Catholic Church teachings on migration. We usually think of citizens as sedentary: citizens stay and then other people who are not citizens move in an out. What if we flipped it? If we assume mobility is a normal human response, how does that change how we’re viewing our migration laws and migration data and migration experience?

 

Janine Holc, Ph.D., has been teaching political science at Loyola since 1990. She is co-director of the Gender Studies program and the temporary director of the Global Studies program. She received her undergraduate degree from Illinois State University and holds a doctorate in political science from The Johns Hopkins University. She recently served as the Ben and Zelda Cohen Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Most of her research has focused on politics in Poland, and she is currently completing a book on Holocaust memory politics in Poland.

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