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Working Group on Refugees, Europe, and Service Learning

Now in its seventh year, WRESL – the Working Group on Refugees, Europe, and Service Learning – provides an informal space in which some of the Center for European Studies’ undergraduates, Excel EURO-TAM students, can discuss the circumstances of refugees in Europe and the US. This group actively seeks out opportunities to learn about the immigrant experience on both sides of the Atlantic and to engage with those involved in integration processes. Thus far, we have focused attention on the efforts of refugee assistance programs (Church World Service), community partnerships (Transplanting Traditions), student volunteer tutors, as well as international photographers and film makers. As the name suggests, we are interested in wrestling with the challenges and successes of migrants and the ways in which non-migrants contribute to the immigrant experience.


WRESL event: Monday, September 11, 2023 at 4pm

Please join us on zoom! We will hear from one of the Global Studies MA students who will discuss her work with refugees in Greece.

Eleni Econopouly completed her MA in Global Studies at UNC-CH. Her current research focuses on adaptation and social transformation during periods of crisis. Her master’s capstone examined the anarchist neighborhood of Exarchia, in Athens, Greece, and explored the adaptations strategies employed by the neighborhood’s residents, including Greek activists and refugees, throughout the Greek debt disaster and the refugee crisis. Eleni’s broader research interests include practices of bordering and othering, migration, abolition, and storytelling. She will be starting a doctoral program in Geography at the University of South Carolina in the 2023-24 year. Please RSVP to to get the zoom link for this event.

WRESL event: Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022 at 10am

Please join our zoom chat on February 19th at 10am. We will talk to two individuals, one German and one American, who work with refugees in Berlin. This will be an informal chance to hear from two people who have fascinating, meaningful, and creative jobs overseas. Please email to get the zoom link.

Lauren Gaillard ’17

Lauren is a TransAtlantic Masters (TAM) graduate. She now serves as the Program Coordinator for Techstart at CODE University of Applied Sciences where she supports people with a forced migration or migrant background to find an entry-level position in the field of digital product development. She manages the academic structure and curriculum development of the program and is responsible for all aspects of the program from admissions to integrating migrants into the tech scene in Berlin.

In addition to this, she chairs the research commission where she wrote and published the research concept and ethical research policy for the university. Due to her passion for cultural development and exchange, she also sits on the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee and speaks at conferences and universities on topics related to identity politics, migration and integration, and Blackness in Europe.

She holds an M.A. in Transatlantic relations in political science and a B.A. in sports administration with a minor in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Christian Wilhelm

Christian received his Diplom (M.A. equivalent) from Humboldt University (HU) in 2007. He worked as a Postgraduate Intern with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants (2007-2008). He then took on the role of Program Manager with the German-Turkish Master’s Program in the Office of International MA Programs at Humboldt. Last year, he became part of the international department at Humboldt University, where he is working for the Circle U. project. This project aims to build a European university with the participation of nine first-class universities from all over Europe.


Friday, March 26

We heard from Sam Barber, a TAM grad from the class of 2020. Excel @ Carolina student, Mackenzie Hansen, moderated the discussion.
Sam Barber grew up in RoaHeadshot of Sam smiling.noke Rapids, North Carolina. As an undergraduate he obtained Bachelor’s degrees in Arab Cultures and Global Studies, as well as a minor in French, at UNC-CH. During his time at Chapel Hill he studied abroad in Morocco for a semester and completed a Senior Honors Thesis that analyzed a collective of contemporary Syrian filmmakers. He also dedicated much of his time during his undergraduate career to working with the Syrian refugee population in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. Sam volunteered with Duke student organization INJAZ, which strives to achieve a partnership that creates an exciting environment for cultural and Arabic/English language exchange. He was partnered with a recently resettled refugee and began weekly visits to help him improve his English language skills. For the TAM program he studied in Berlin where he investigated how mass migration has affected the German government and its political relationships. As a TAM student, Sam also interned with a TAM graduate at World Church Service in Durham and had a FLAS award for Arabic. He now works for the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants at their Raleigh office. In addition, he is a passionate surfer, painter, and board gamer.


Transatlantic Perspectives on Migration

On Saturday, February 2nd at noon ET, we heard from two TAM graduates working on behalf of immigrants and refugees in the US and Europe. Mario is in California, and Stylianos in Greece.

Stylianos Kelaiditis ’10 studied overseas in Amsterdam and was in the first cohort of European Governance Track students. He holds an MA in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill TransAtlantic Master’s program and an MA in War Studies from King’s College London. After TAM, he worked for the Michael and Kitty Dukakis Center for Public and Humanitarian Service at the American College of Thessaloniki as a Teaching and Research Assistant. Over the past years Stylianos has gained experience working in the Refugee and Migration Crisis field, with the then Ministry of Migration Policy and UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Northern Greece.  He is now a Project Assistant for IOM in Thessaloniki – Greece. (He will be speaking in his personal capacity, not representing IOM, although some of the experiences that he will refer to come from his work with IOM among others.)


Mario Martinez ’16 works for Centro Legal de la Raza.
As a TAM student, Mario studied overseas in Ankara and Berlin. He interned with UNDP in Istanbul in 2015 and received DAAD funding during his year of study in Germany. Mario earned the joint METU-HU degree in German-Turkish Studies.
Now he is the Post-Release Accompaniment Program (PRAP) Coordinator at Centro Legal de la Raza assisting bond and parole-eligible community members secure their release from immigration detention. Mario has helped coordinate regional deportation defense programs since 2017 at immigration courts, detention facilities, and rapid response networks. He has developed data-driven strategies to enhance these programs and quickly respond to sudden policy shifts or emergencies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these strategies were utilized to identify medically vulnerable individuals to file urgent humanitarian parole requests, support litigation, and inform statewide policy advocacy. Mario’s passion for utilizing information to help his community has led him to explore how to leverage Artificial Intelligence tools to improve the provision of legal services. Mario holds an M.A. in Social Sciences and he completed graduate internships abroad focused on international human rights issues, international development, regional legal networks, and refugee issues in the European Union. These experiences allowed him to develop an international perspective on global migration and enabled him to further develop his professional skills to support the immigrant community in the U.S. In his spare time, Mario enjoys cooking for his family, trying new dishes, and he recently developed an interest in organic gardening.

On October 2, 2020 one of our TransAtlantic Masters (TAM) Students joined an alumni panel and discussed her work with refugees.

Nourah Shuaibi.Nourah Shuaibi ’15

Nourah is a doctoral student at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Nourah’s research is on conflict resolution, transitional justice and international political economy. She is also one of the founders and Chair of a non-profit organization called Global Outreach Leaders (GOL). Started in 2014, this organization has 3 divisions: workforce development, community advancement, global health. Nourah and her team have been around the world mediating conflict and helping alleviate refugee’s struggles. Nourah is currently the General Manager of Corporate Culture and communications at a leading Asset management group in the UAE. She is also expanding her nonprofit organization in the US to the GCC and MENA region to focus on women’s empowerment. Nourah holds three bachelor’s degrees in Peace and Conflict Resolution studies, International Studies, and Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She enrolled in the TAM Program in 2013 and studied overseas in Prague and Siena.


WRESL Fellows 2020

The text in the tooltip says: Allison is a second-year student in the EURO-TAM excel program at Carolina. She is also pursuing a minor in the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) Program, and plans to apply to the Kenan-Flagler Business School in the summer of 2019. Beginning with her tenure at UNC this fall, Allison has begun to actively work with the WRESL program and is looking forward to continuing in this capacity throughout the rest of this year and into the future.

The text in the tooltip says: Desiree Lockhart is a first-year Honors student from Maryland studying Public Policy. Growing up in an extremely diverse area with a high immigrant population led her to have a passion for foreign affairs and serve under-represented communities.

Headshot of Xander. Tooltip text says Xander is a first year student from Jacksonville, Florida majoring in Contemporary Studies and Global Studies. He became apart of WRESL because of his interest in refugees and immigration politics and hopes to better educate himself and others on this topic.

Tooltip text says Hello! My name is Tracy Ridley, and I am a first-year student in the EURO-TAM excel program at Carolina. I am double-majoring in Contemporary European Studies and Political Science, with a minor in German. I joined WRESL my first semester at Carolina because of my deep interest in the refugee crisis in Europe and the struggles facing thousands of people across the continent. In the future, I hope to use my education, skills, and background to help those in need and make my impact on as many people as possible worldwide.

Headshot of Lizzie. Tooltip text says Lizzie Russler is a senior from Charleston, South Carolina studying Contemporary European Studies and Environmental Sustainability. With experience in the non-profit, private and public spheres, Lizzie is passionate about finding cross-sectoral solutions to our world's most pressing challenges, including the climate crisis and associated migration, migrant integration, and human rights abuses.

Blog Posts


At noon on February 7th, we screened a Bertelsmann-Foundation film in the GEC followed by a panel.
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WRESL members were recently invited to take part in a workshop focused on reconciling differing opinions.
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Susanne Dieper, Director of Programs and Grants at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., joined us to discuss the AICGS project called “Integration: Made in Germany.”
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We heard from Professor Christiane Lemke of the University of Hannover in Germany and from one of our WRESL members, Cameren Lofton, about a refugee theater project they worked on this summer.
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TAM Student Volunteering

After returning to UNC during the peak of the Refugee Crisis, Sam Barber got involved as a volunteer in the refugee community in Chapel Hill, via student organization INJAZ.
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A European Partner and Refugees

Center colleague Christian Wilhelm, from Humboldt University in Berlin, spoke with WRESL about creating a path for refugees in Germany to enroll in Humboldt’s German-Turkish Master’s Program. One student shared her reflection.
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Refugees in Europe and Berlin

My German colleague wanted to enable refugees to join GeTMA – the German-Turkish Master’s Program Humboldt has run in conjunction with The Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara.
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Volunteering with Refugees Overseas

The Center for European Studies hosted a panel discussion focused on undergraduates who will undertake or have engaged in volunteer work with refugees overseas.
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Students Visit Refugee Exhibition

A small group of Excel @ Carolina students who are part of our EURO-TAM Program recently went to The Friday Center to see a multimedia art exhibition called REFUGEE. The students shared their impressions.
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