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ACU to be first Texas university in unique refugee partnership

Abilene Christian University is set to be the first Texas university to join the Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR) program, designed to partner U.S. colleges and universities with their local refugee resettlement agency as a co-sponsor to host refugees on campus grounds and support them in their resettlement. 

ACU and the Abilene office of the International Rescue Committee will sign a memorandum of understanding to formalize the partnership on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Hunter Welcome Center on ACU’s campus. 

“This agreement will make a meaningful difference in the lives of refugees by offering them housing and support on ACU’s campus while allowing our students deeper education,” said Dr. Jason Morris, professor of higher education, dean of the Honors College and executive director of the ACU Center for Building Community. “Institutionally, we are excited for our students to benefit from the service learning that will take place through the interactions between refugees and ACU students.”

The vision of ECAR is to transform the landscape of refugee resettlement and higher education by creating sustainable resettlement campus ecosystems. 

The initiative began with Guilford College hosting refugees in January 2016, and the ECAR chapter at Guilford College has since hosted more than 90 refugees from several countries. The initiative now involves 17 other universities, including Wake Forest, Old Dominion, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Washington and Purdue. Collectively, ECAR campuses have hosted more than 347 refugees and supported them in their resettlement. 

Families are provided short-term housing in university-owned property within walking distance of bus stops, grocery stores and banks. 

“Colleges and universities are especially well-suited for this co-sponsorship model because campuses are like cities with everything necessary to welcome a refugee family and support their successful integration: housing, facilities, utilities, human resources and expertise in many areas, as well as a built-in cohesive community of welcome,” said Dr. Diya Abdo, founder and director of ECAR.

The agreement between ACU and the Abilene IRC provides for one refugee family to be housed in a home owned by Abilene Christian and located near campus, beginning in September 2024. ACU is receiving a $46,000 grant from the Supporting Higher Education in Refugee Resettlement program through World Learning to help defray the costs of housing, staffing and other resources necessary for the ECAR program.

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