The Department of Women’s Studies at ODU was established in 1977 as the first program in women’s studies within Virginia’s public universities. This dynamic interdisciplinary field of study now offers degrees and courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students gain critical knowledge about the broader social, historical, and global conditions that shape women’s and men’s lives in a variety of contexts. Students are encouraged to apply this knowledge in ways that contribute to the improvement of women’s lives throughout the world.
The Department has developed a service-learning course that works with the Refugee and Immigration Services project in Hampton. They have taught two classes that weave direct service and contact with local refugee populations in the undergraduate classroom. For the graduate students, three focused seminars on refugee studies were created. One involves the establishment of a Women’s Empowerment Group among local refugee women. The Department was also a recipient of a grant to develop international programs in Rwanda.
Dr. Jennifer Fish is Chair of the Department of Women’s Studies, and a faculty leader in the study abroad program. She earned her PhD is Sociology from American Unviersity, with an emphasis on international development and peacebuilding. Her scholar-activist interests center on post-conflict reconciliation, with particular emphasis on women’s labor contributions to restructuring society. For the past fifteen years, she has worked on South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy through research appointments with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape, the national Commission on Gender Equality, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Her book publications include Domestic Democracy: At Home in South Africa (Routledge, 2006) and the co-edited collection Women’s Activism in South Africa: Working Across Divides (University of KwaZulu Natal, 2009). Dr. Fish also works in on issues of reconciliation and gender equality in Rwanda, where she co-founded the Centre for Gender, Culture, and Development at the national Kigali Institute of Education. Her work extends to international consultancies with the United Nations University, the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) network.
Refugee and Immigration Services began in 1975 with the arrival of the Vietnamese boat people. In that first year, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond welcomed more than 900 individuals, placing refugees with parishioners who opened their homes to these strangers. These new arrivals went to work and paved the way for thousands to follow. Paid staff now provides orientation, translation, health screenings, job placements, English instruction and supportive services. Each refugee family must confront the same challenges – an alien environment, unfamiliar language, foreign culture, loss of status and social network, unemployment and fear about the future. Over the past 36 years more than 18,000 refugees have met these challenges and successfully adapted to life in southern Virginia, with approximately 5,000 resettling in the Hampton Roads area.
A partnership between CCC and the ODU Women’s Studies Department has led to the development of several service-learning programs that support the needs of local refugees.
One program, a Multicultural Women’s Forum, consists of refugee clientele from varying countries of origin, ODU post graduate students and faculty, and RIS volunteers. This is client-based, providing ongoing dialogue to address topical issues and matters of interest in order to enrich their community and collaborate on initiatives that support the women’s advancement as well as their family’s livelihood.
The ODU group also held “Path to College” workshops for refugee high school students to help them prepare for college.
Karen Kurilko has been Regional Director of the Hampton Roads office since August of 2000. Prior to that she was Director of Social Ministry at a large Catholic parish on the Virginia Peninsula. She has an MBA from Strayer University.
The College of William and Mary’s Law School Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
Christie S. Warren
Professor of the Practice of International and Comparative Law
Director, Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
William and Mary Law School
More than 93 percent of the world’s citizens live in legal systems that are not purely common law. Preparing the next generation of lawyers to perform competently in our increasingly globalize world requires innovative courses and research – and concrete field experience.
The Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuildin meets this challenge head-on. Students take international and comparative law courses, intern in legal systems that are still developing, and send their research to countries where people struggle to recover from poverty, colonization and conflict. Faculty produce cutting-edge scholarship on legal issues that transcend national borders.
The Program’s work bridges the gap between resources available at law schools and the great need for them in the field, where people engaged in the difficult work of peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction often labor without regular electricity, internet or other basic services.
Christie S. Warren is Professor of the Practice of International and Comparative Law and founding Director of the Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding. Her areas of specialization include Comparative Law, Comparative Constitutional Systems, Post-Conflict Justice, International Human Rights Law, Civil Code Systems and Islamic Law. She is a graduate of the Harvard Mediation Program.
Warren has designed and implemented constitutional, judicial and legal development programs in more than 40 countries throughout Africa, Central and East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the Newly Independent States, the Balkans and East Timor. She was named the 1998 – 1999 Supreme Court Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States and served as the 2010-2011 Senior Expert in Constitutional Issues for the United Nations Department of Political Affairs Mediation Support Unit Standby Team. She currently serves as the Curriculum Advisor for the Constitution Building Processes Programme at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm.
Warren has advised on constitutional issues and processes in Haiti, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Somalia and Sudan and participated in the Darfur Peace Talks.