The IIE- Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees Leadership Program

When IIE launched the IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees in spring 2019, supporting students studying at one of the City Colleges of Chicago or a community college in Chicagoland, we embarked on a journey that allowed us to meet 39 inspiring students who came to the United States as refugees or received asylum. 

Image of student with quotation which states "This scholarship is a door opened to me that is a golden and precious opportunity so I am preparing myself for another success and a better future."


The IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees provides critical financial support to help students cover educational and living expenses. It also sends an important message to students: it acknowledges their potential and desire to access post-secondary education to fulfil their personal and professional dreams.

The scholarship program included a 5-day leadership workshop to allow students to meet their peers, build a cohort, and reflect on their leadership skills and what being a leader means to them. These program components are among the most rewarding experiences for program staff and students alike as they allow us to create personal relationships. Although the pandemic required us to move the workshop online, the program was effective and inspiring, and we hope to meet everyone in person when we can.

"Thank you to everybody that participated morally, socially, physically, educationally, and financially." - IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees Grantee

IIE was fortunate to work with Talitha Consults and Innovus ED LLC, who designed and implemented the leadership program. Under the topic of Adaptive Leadership, facilitators together with students explored critical leadership skills such as communication, integrity, resilience, confidence, and empathy. Rather than trying to “teach” students leadership skills, facilitators emphasized that student are already adaptive leaders who can navigate diverse environments. Through a variety of thoughtfully designed activities that included poetry sessions, creating win-win situations, as well as empathy and communication exercises, students were able to recognize their strengths and build on their skills to become more effective in their leadership.

“My self-confidence got stronger thanks to this program. I really appreciate it.” – IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship Grantee

Image of student with quotation which states "The scholarship has provided me to opportunity to become a well-rounded individual in society by reducing the financial burden as an immigrant/asylee to pursue my career goals"


I was inspired by the students’ willingness to actively participate in every session, discuss their experiences, setbacks and successes and share their hopes and dreams. I was humbled by their resilience, empathy and support for one another and their drive to build their lives in their new home country, connecting and contributing to their communities.

During the leadership program I met future poets, artists, engineers, politicians, doctors, nurses, and teachers. But most importantly, I met a group of young people eager to connect to each other, make their voices heard, and create opportunities for themselves and others.

A special thank you goes to our facilitators at Talitha Consults and Innovus ED. Their commitment to serving every student by creating an engaging, welcoming, and safe environment was felt throughout the workshop.

“With workshop like these, I end up knowing the value of human virtues that would have otherwise seemed unnecessary. This program was an eyeopener in demonstrating the importance of empathy for effective leadership and why it’s required for us to be a model leader in the 21st century” – IIE-Julia Stasch Leadership Program Grantee

With the end of the leadership program, we also say farewell to many students of the first Cohort of the IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees. As they continue on their paths, we look forward to learning about their future projects and plans and remain committed to serving displaced and refugee students through IIE programs.



Vida, a recipient of the IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees, shared her experience with displacement from Ghana to Chicago. She tells an arduous story which began with a forced marriage at age 13 and ends with her preparing to attend her dream school. Listen to the full audio diary below.



Written by Nele Feldmann, IIE Head of Student Emergency Initiatives.

Published on September 9, 2020.