As a native of Utica, David Butler ’13 thought he “knew the city like the back of my hand.” His summer fellowship with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR), however, has both shifted and deepened his perception of the city he calls home. It has allowed the International Relations major and Studio Art minor to become immersed in Utica’s growing cultural and linguistic diversity and to “explore localization in a very concrete manner.”
In 1979, the MVRCR was officially established to promote the well being of culturally diverse individuals and families within the Mohawk Valley region by welcoming refugees and immigrants as new neighbors. The organization sustains its mission through the provision of dozens of services, some of which include refugee resettlement, interpretation and translation, naturalization and citizenship classes, and refugee and immigrant employment referrals. The MVRCR has assisted in the resettlement of 13,973 refugees since 1973.
David is working on a variety of projects that will strengthen and expand the organization’s numerous services. He is creating a digital archive of the MVRCR’s appearance in local, national, and transnational news publications that date back to its official establishment in 1979. David is also crafting two cultural competency models for Compass Interpreters, a division of the MVRCR, and for local healthcare providers. In addition, he is reviewing and revising the framework of a six-session discussion series for refugee women regarding marriage and domestic violence. His final project, which arose recently, involves expanding the organization’s Urban Community Garden Initiative by working with For The Good, Inc. to establish a new community garden a block away from the MVRCR.
In addition to these initiatives, David has attended two conferences to deepen his knowledge of the issues refugees and immigrants face as they establish themselves in the United States. In June, he participated in the North American Refugee Healthcare Conference in Rochester, New York, which focused on best practices for refugee health in the United States. This week, David will return from the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora that took place in Baltimore, Maryland. This conference focused on the health and social experience of slave descendants in the Western Hemisphere.
David was interested in becoming a Field School Fellow this summer because he “saw an opportunity to learn about the Upstate area in an academic context.” He had not had the opportunity to do this in his Colgate career because his major had primarily focused on globalization rather than localization. Through the local perspective the Upstate Institute fosters, David now sees Utica as “the union of localization and globalization,” with 42 different languages spoken in an area of 17 square miles. His ongoing work with the staff and clients of the MVRCR has also affirmed “Utica has everything to offer me because it has everything to offer us, the individuals who call Utica home.”