Barry McNamara  |   Published February 18, 2016

Lending an important hand

Monmouth College a leader in higher ed solutions for students in crisis situations
Monmouth College has emerged as an internationally-recognized leader in the effort to promote access to higher education among student populations affected by violent conflict and displacement, such as what students in Syria and Yemen are currently experiencing.
  Monmouth was one of only three higher education institutions represented at an Institute of International Education (IIE) meeting in New York City earlier this month, attended by approximately 45 individuals from governments, foundations, humanitarian and education organizations, and experts from a range of disciplines.   Bren Tooley, the college’s director of international recruitment, attended the meeting at IIE headquarters in the United Nations complex. Called by former president of Portugal Jorge Sampaio, the meeting focused on potential solutions for providing rapid responses to emergency situations in the higher education arena.   “Students from countries like Syria who are seeking to continue their education face specific challenges,” explained Tooley. “They need advice and encouragement throughout the application and admission process, and it’s a pleasure to provide that. I admire them. Their desire to continue their education and their courage in the face of tremendous challenge is extraordinary.”   Discussion about and development of the rapid response platform proposal will continue at a World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May, with a goal of presenting a full proposal to the United Nations this fall.   “It was an honor to have participated in this conversation,” said Tooley, who also serves the college as an associate dean of academic affairs. “It was a great experience to meet people face-to-face with whom we’ve been working closely for several years and to see at first hand the scope and intensity of the larger effort to support access to higher education for students in crisis in which Monmouth College has had a small part. I look forward to continued collaboration with this group.”   Tooley notes that placing students at U.S. colleges and universities can only be a small part of the answer to the larger question of “doing more, better and faster” in response to the needs of students whose educations have been disrupted, and that a wide array of context-specific strategies and educational platforms – student access to universities in border countries, new universities in refugee communities for displaced scholars and students, language instruction, on-line instruction, diagnostic testing to substitute for lost transcripts and school-leaving credentials, and more – are needed.   “However,” she said, “small colleges can be important participants in at least this one component: they can usually act quickly and flexibly, for example in admissions requirements. Their small classes and close student-teacher relationships can be exactly what best helps students emerging from crisis situations to flourish.”   Later this month, Tooley will lead an American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) webinar dealing with supporting Syrian refugee access to higher education with a colleague from the Illinois Institute of Technology. In March, she will be a presenter at an IIE pre-conference workshop, “Project No More Lost Generations: Principles of Higher Education Support” at the annual IIE Best Practices conference, hosted by the University of California-Davis. 
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