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Migrant Connections: Immigrant and Refugee Stories from Utah to Greece

“Mass displacement is a reality borne from many interrelated factors of our time” says Dr. Alborz Ghandehari – Assistant Professor and Lecturer in Ethnic Studies at the University of Utah. “Furthermore, they testify to the need for global approaches to migration which connect migrant justice struggles across the world”. It is these stories sharing the experiences of daily life, activism, and the struggles for immigrants and refugees that comprise Migrant Connections.

Migrant Connections (a component of the “Race and Ethnicity in Global Contexts” research project) has provided the opportunity for student participants of the University of Utah’s Transfer Diversity Scholars program to gain experience in the practice of conducting oral history interviews. Through the University of Utah course entitled Politics of Borders and Migration, students collected and shared interviews conducted during the Fall 2019 semester from individuals within their own families and Utah refugee and immigrant communities. Earlier in the semester, students had listened to oral histories Ghandehari himself had conducted with refugees in Greece in August 2019.

“I have learned so much from my mother with this oral history because of hearing the stories again that she told me when I was little”, says Gabby Rosales, a student participant of the Migrant Connections project. “I’m blessed to interview my mother because she can tell her story with her own words and her own expressions without someone else’s telling it for her”.

A map of routes to and from America that trace oral histories.
One of the interactive maps developed by Justin Sorensen, GIS Specialist at the Library, illustrating routes traveled by refugees interviewed by students.
Left to right: Selena Williams-Perez, Gabby Rosales, Luz Clarita Hernandez Zamudio, Justin Sorensen, Guadalupe Medina, Michelle Gollehon, Isabella Falco, Alborz Ghandehari.

“My experience interviewing a migrant’s story was a wonderful experience because you get to hear their side of the story,” says Selena Williams-Perez, a student participant of the Migrant Connections project. “You hear the stories of what their parents went through and how many sacrifices they make for their children. It opens your perspective of what their childhood consisted of and what kind of person they are today”.

In an endeavor to find the best method for creatively sharing these works with others, Ghandehari and his students sought the expertise and project support services of the J. Willard Marriott Library. Through a collaborative partnership, Ghandehari developed the initial footprints for the Migrant Connections website utilizing WordPress with the assistance of Anne Morrow (Head of Digital Scholarship Services) while working with Michelle Gollehon (Digital Operations Coordinator) to upload and share each of the student oral history interviews and transcripts with the community through the Digital Library. To add an interactive visualization component to the project, Ghandehari worked closely with Justin Sorensen (GIS Specialist) to develop multiple mapping interfaces that brought together the oral history interviews and transcripts while depicting the migration routes described in each interview.

 “When my students and I and our partners in Greece undertook an immigrant/refugee oral history exchange, we had no idea how complex an undertaking it would be,” says Ghandehari. “The Library’s GIS and Digital Archive specialists helped us create an interactive oral history map that brought our vision to life. We hope it encourages people to visualize and build solidarity between migrant communities worldwide”.

To learn more about this project or to view the collaborative output of this work, please visit the Migrant Connections website at:

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