May 2021 Student Spotlight
MIA student and Research & Policy Analyst at AsylumConnect, Jesse Bennett tells us about her research on refugee rights, her work with the International Rescue Committee, and more.
Tell us what you do as Research & Policy Analyst at AsylumConnect.
I joined AsylumConnect as a volunteer in March of 2021 to help conduct a policy report regarding state-level friendliness towards LGBTQ+ immigrants. AsylumConnect provides LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugees with an online catalogue of resources to help increase access to organizations that provide legal assistance, mental health services, shelter, and more. As a Research & Policy Analyst I identify and rank indicators of friendliness regarding immigration and asylum laws. Each state has their own access, healthcare, and sanctuary laws regarding what resources immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented or asylum seekers, are allowed to access. The report in intended to help provide a comprehensive guide to where the safest place is for LGBTQ+ immigrants to seek assistance and refuge.
What has your experience been like thus far in the MIA program?
My experience with the MIA program has been amazing and incredibly rewarding. One of the best parts about the program is that you can dive incredibly deep into a subject you are passionate about in every single class and be surrounded by great advisors and colleagues who are always willing to help. I have loved connecting with my classmates who work throughout NYC and the world doing work in nonprofit, governments, and international organizations in a variety of capacities. Each person in the program comes with a unique background and wide array of knowledge that helps make the classroom itself interesting. We aren’t simply doing classwork assignments, the program allows us to address real problems that are occurring and produce realistic and quality recommendations to fix them.
What research projects, both personally and professionally have been the most interesting or important to you?
I have been lucky that my personal and professional research projects have intersected. Throughout my time at the Marxe I have focused my academic research on refugee crises and refugee rights and protections. With over 45 million people displaced, I am passionate about finding ways in which we can provide greater and more equitable support to refugee globally. Especially since we have seen a heavy rise in populist and nativist sentiments in the US and globally, refugees have faced closed doors from many nations that once openly accepted them. I have had the pleasure of working with Prof. Hernandez on his project regarding the asylum system in the United States, which has also attributed to my greater understanding of how our refugee and asylum system has a long way left to go to ensure the protection of displaced peoples. I hope that the knowledge I have gained through my research at the Marxe will help me develop more sustainable and equitable policies and programs for refugees!
Have you done any volunteering, fellowships, or internships through the Marxe School? What are some notable experiences you’ve had?
In the summer of 2020, I was able to partake in both an internship and leadership program that the Marxe School helped me acquire! First, I was an Economic Empowerment intern with the International Rescue Committee where I helped deliver job trainings and workshops to newly arrived refugees in New York City. This was a particularly challenging but rewarding opportunity as I began during the peak of the pandemic in May of 2020 when much of the city was closed down and finding available jobs for program participants was difficult. I also had the opportunity to participate in a program called EmpowHER through which I attended leadership development workshops, completed the Dare to Lead curriculum, and networked with professionals working in Washington, DC and throughout the US!