IIE Student Emergency Initiatives – A 2019 Retrospective

From supporting the first IIE PEER Forum in NYC to the launch of the IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees & Asylees, and the Emergency Student Fund (ESF) for Bahamian students impacted by Hurricane Dorian, 2019 has been an eventful year for the IIE Student Emergency Initiatives team. As we are entering a new year and decade, we are looking back at the highlights of 2019 and forward to the opportunities the new year and decade holds for us!


IIE’s Platform for Education Emergencies Response (IIE PEER)

On April 4th, 2019, IIE PEER held its first annual forum gathering more than 100 higher education professionals, experts in the field of higher education in emergencies, as well as displaced and refugee students. The high-level forum discussed IIE PEER’s university advising programs and provided sessions on building ethical scholarship programs, creating successful partnerships in the 

Speaker leaning into a mic to speak at the IIE PEER Forum 2019

field of higher education in emergencies and creating effective communication strategies. Speakers included Ekhlas Ahmed, a refugee and educator from Sudan, George Rupp, President Emeritus of Columbia and Rice University and former President of the International Rescue Committee as well as John Sexton, President Emeritus of New York University. You can listen to the most powerful lessons learned below.

In 2018, IIE PEER expanded our opportunity database to serve refugee and displaced students from all backgrounds. As we are entering our fourth year of providing students from countries of crisis with a resource designed to help them re-connect to higher education, we are committed to further improve and maintain our opportunity database to ensure that refugee and displaced students have access to vetted information that helps them decide on their next step in their educational journey.

IIE PEER is not only a clearinghouse accessible to displaced and refugee students from all countries, but the university advising and admission programs IIE PEER helped implementing served more than 200 students in North America, the Middle East, East Africa, Asia and online over the last two years. All advising projects aim at providing access to standardized tests and university admission counselling to displaced and refugee students who are eager to obtain their higher education degree. Our IIE-led advising program in Thailand, IIE PEER PREP, is an award given to displaced Karen students from Myanmar living along the Thai-Myanmar border who will receive a university degree and full funding support from their host universities.

Student with tutor in Thai refugee camp

In 2019, IIE PEER PREP presented seven awards to students who will be studying in Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Hong Kong. Currently, we are identifying our second cohort of IIE PEER PREP grantees who will begin their studies at universities in the region in fall 2020. Learn more about IIE PEER PREP from the Head of IIE Southeast Asia, Jonathan Lembright, or reach out to peer@iie.org for more information.

IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees & Asylees

In May 2020, IIE SEI launched a new and innovative scholarship model for students who came to the United States as refugees or were granted asylum and are studying at one of the City Colleges of Chicago or a Community College in Chicagoland. Completing an associate’s degree puts students with a refugee or asylee background on strong footing for their pathway forward.

Julia Stasch-IIE Grantee smiling at the camera

Community and junior colleges are often the first touchpoint with the U.S. post-secondary education system for these students. Completing an associate’s degree is particularly advantageous for students who wish to pursue a four-year degree or improve their skills for the labor market. Visit our website or reach out to sei@iie.org if you would like to learn more about this program!

IIE Emergency Student Fund (IIE ESF)

As in previous years, IIE has helped international students in the United States affected by armed conflict, war, or natural disasters. Through the Emergency Student Fund, IIE is able to respond to urgent crises in an immediate and effective manner by providing financial support to students when emergencies in their home countries threaten to jeopardize the completion of their studies. Over the years, IIE ESF has supported over 900 students, listen to one recipient share his story leaving Syria for Salve Regina University.

In 2019, IIE supported 42 students from the Bahamas whose studies and lives were heavily impacted by the devastation left behind by Hurricane Dorian. From the destruction of their family homes to the loss of family members, students that were nominated for an ESF-Bahamas award demonstrated incredible financial and emotional hardship. Learn more about IIE’s ESF-Bahamas here.

Scholarship recipient sitting in library smiling to something off camera

IIE Scholarship Fund for Syrian Students

IIE SEI continues to support Syrian students studying at host institutions in the United States, Canada, Germany, Turkey, the U.K., and Finland with scholarships that cover their living expenses while host institutions are committing to partial or full tuition waivers.

To date, the Syria Scholarship Fund has supported 28 students and 13 students have successfully graduated from their programs. One of our recent graduates is Ibrahim Fares who recently completed his Master’s in International Economics and Management at the University of Paderborn in Germany. In an Open Letter Ibrahim shared with us what it took to realize his educational goals.


Give the Gift on an Education

Lastly, as we are looking ahead, we are proud to announce that IIE’s Student Emergency Initiatives joined the UNHCR-led campaign of providing 15% of all refugees with access to higher education by 2030, compared to the current number of 3%. As part of the first Global Refugee Forum which was held in Geneva in December 2019, IIE pledged to launch the IIE Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis providing 10 refugee students in Bachelor’s or Master’s programs with scholarships that include tuition waivers and support for visa, travel, and living expenses.

Image of scholarship student with consortium name featured


In 2020, IIE will continue expanding our efforts to provide tertiary education opportunities to displaced and refugee students around the world. Education provides hope, empowers individuals and their communities, and holds the promise of a better future. If you are interested in supporting our efforts, consider giving here or reach out to us at sei@iie.org to learn more about our work.

We wish you a successful and peaceful year and look forward to continuing our work to create more opportunities for displaced and refugee students.