Scholars at Risk Network Helps Professors and Researchers Find Refuge and Continue Their Work

With conflict and wars happening all around the world, Kent State University wants to help professors, scientists and researchers who are in danger due to political reasons.

“The Scholars at Risk Network is set up to help professors and scholars who are in conflict zones or who are suffering political oppression, get out of the country that they’re in and find refuge somewhere else,” Julie Mazzei, Ph.D., an associate professor and interim director in the School of Multidisciplinary Social Sciences and Humanities (SMSSH), said.

The Scholars at Risk Network works with universities to help host displaced scholars for a few months to a couple of years until they can find more of a permanent position in a safe space. They have helped individuals escape Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and a host of other conflict areas.

The International Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Women’s Center at Kent State are working to establish the university as one of those refuge locations for recently rescued individuals.

“The objective is not only to save them, rescue their sort of physical safety and provide refuge, but also to make sure they can keep doing their research and scholarship in the program at Kent,” Mazzei said.

While Kent State aims to become a host university, it still has a long way to go.

“We would have to raise a million dollars to sustain an endowed faculty position,” Mazzei said. “This means we would be able to support one person per year far into the future.”

Women: Voices of Leadership and Voices on the Margins, a Scholars at Risk Speaker Series 

Kent State will be welcoming three “alumni” Scholars at Risk to speak at the university and regional events over the 2023-2024 academic year. These individuals are now settled in long-term academic homes but have reached this moment of personal safety and professional security only after having been supported by the Scholar at Risk Network. These events are open to the public and include:

  • Dr. Farai Gonzo, originally from Zimbabwe, will join us virtually via Zoom on Oct. 25 at 5 p.m., which can be viewed in Bowman Hall, Room 206 or through Zoom. Gonzo will speak about being a journalist who did not receive freedom of the press and had to escape from her home country and relocated to Canada. 
Farai Gonzo
  • Dr. Shuchi Karim, originally from Bangladesh, will speak on Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m., Bowman Hall, Room 204, and will be livestreamed via Zoom. Karim began her career studying women’s and gender rights in Bangladesh. Since working with the Scholar at Risk program to leave Bangladesh in pursuit of academic freedom, Karim went to Canada and serves as a professor and director of the International Development Research Centre’s project, “Placement, Preservation, and Perseverance: Afghan At-Risk Scholars, Activists, and Students.” 
Shuchi Karim
  • A third guest is currently being arranged but remains to be determined.


Mazzei’s Perspective
“I study political violence,” Mazzei said. “One of the sort of long-standing observations about situations of extreme political oppression is that the first people they’ll go after are students and the universities. So, when a revolutionary sort of authoritarian military wants to take over the state, they want to get rid of the places where freedom of expression happens.”

Mazzei said that if people look at political violence in Chile or Argentina, college students and professors were some of the first people targeted.

“It’s important because it provides safety for people who are targeted,” Mazzei said. “It allows them not just to have physical safety, but to have intellectual safety too. Not only do we lose individuals in situations of political violence, but we lose major contributions to science when people are massacred because they are scientists. It's a loss to human knowledge. And it's a loss of very valuable lives. Organizations like Scholars at Risk don’t just provide the person with escape, but with a future; a secure, happy, joyful and autonomous future.”

Support the Scholars at Risk Program 
Help us support these scholars in their time of need by giving to the Scholar at Risk Program:!/donation/checkout?designation=1827517 


# # # 

POSTED: Wednesday, October 25, 2023 02:20 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 25, 2023 04:15 PM
Destiny Torres