For those whose very lives are threatened by the pursuit of knowledge, things can often seem very dire. In countries such as Syria, Iraq, Columbia, and Nigeria, the very act of scholarly research can often put a person as well as their family, at risk of death or persecution. In an effort to mitigate this, the Institute of International Education founded the Scholar Rescue Fund 10 years ago to get these persecuted university faculty out of their home countries and to the safety of host institutions around the world where they can continue their work.
The Scholar Rescue Fund is one of the inaugural projects of The Office for Global Engagement at the University of Utah and breaks new ground not only for the University of Utah but also for the entire region.
“We are, I believe, the first university within Utah to engage in this program, possibly the first in the intermountain west to do so,” said Cheri Daily, Director of Development and External Relations for the Office for Global Engagement.
The Scholar Rescue Fund works as a matching fellowship, so the Institute of International Education out of New York matches $25,000 in funding to bring these scholars to host institutions. The host university raises the rest of the funding for a yearlong fellowship, which provides the incoming scholar with a living wage and the ability to rent a home and meet basic living expenses during their stay.
The Office for Global Engagement is currently in the process of finding a candidate scholar who is both in need of asylum from their home country, and who is a good fit with the university’s research programs.
“We have been working very closely with the Scholar Rescue Fund to identify a scholar to host,” Daily said. “It’s important to note that it’s not just any scholar, but someone who would be a good match with our fields of expertise within the university.”
They are currently discussing the possibility of hosting a geophysicist from Syria due to the University of Utah’s strong geophysics program. His research is similar to some of the research being done by Utah faculty in the same department.
For Daily, one of the most rewarding aspects of working with the Scholar Rescue Fund has been knowing that the program not only provides new research opportunities but the potential change that it can bring to the scholars who are hosted.
“It’s really inspiring to see that many of these scholars find positions outside of their home countries because unfortunately many of these countries have political situations that take years to resolve if they resolve at all. So a lot of these scholars find host institutions or full-time positions after their fellowship. Just getting them out of their country helps them to connect with colleagues. It’s just the start,” Daily said.
The Office for Global Engagement received a donation from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation to begin the program, and they hope to get more community donors involved as the program moves forward and the university begins to bring scholars over.
“We’d love to have the scholars engage with the community and have the community meet them so that they can understand their situations politically and culturally,” Daily said. “It’s a great opportunity for the university and for these scholars to help further an understanding of issues going on in other parts of the world which we, as Americans, can’t even begin to imagine.”
Looking to the future, Daily hopes that the University of Utah will be able to continue to host scholars on a yearly basis, and bring in more community involvement. She hopes that by bringing in scholars from these perilous international situations the university can act as a beacon of global sustainability.
“As we all look toward the reality of being global citizens, I think it is critically important for our faculty, students, staff, and community to have exposure and understanding of cultures that we may not have any contact with other than news stories on CNN,” Daily said. “This is another way of ultimately having a greater understanding and bridging gaps in cultural and political understanding.”
For more information about the Scholar Rescue Program at the University of Utah: