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OU Community Steps Up to Help Afghan Refugees

OU Community Steps Up to Help Afghan Refugees

College of International studies students holding many national flags march in a parade

The aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has triggered an exodus of refugees seeking a new life in the United States and other countries around the world. With around 1,800 Afghan refugees starting to make their way to Oklahoma, OU community members are standing ready to help with the resettlement efforts.

Scott Fritzen, dean of the David L. Boren College of International Studies and chair of the OU International Student Response Task Force, has been leading a university-wide effort to support some of Oklahoma’s newest residents.

“The university stands with our new Afghan neighbors, welcoming them to the mosaic of cultures, religions and racial and ethnic groups that make up our state,” Fritzen said in a Sept. 30 letter to the OU community. “The scale of the resettlement and the challenge of successful integration will require the contribution of every segment of our government and society. At OU, we are ready to do our part.”

In recent weeks, Fritzen and task force members have been developing strategies to help alongside various university departments and community partners.

The Center for English as a Second Language is actively preparing to go to where the Afghans are housed to provide English instruction, and interpretation services are being coordinated by the Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies. In conjunction with Catholic Charities – the organization handling all resettlement for the state – the university is also exploring providing advice on careers, according to the evolving needs of the refugees.

The university has also launched a parallel initiative to bring several dislocated or at-risk Afghan scholars to OU over the next year to promote the exchange of ideas, research and teaching.

The scholars, holding doctoral and master’s degrees with teaching experience at Afghan universities, will serve as instructors or guest lecturers in a variety of classes at OU.

“This initiative draws on a generous donation from OU alumni Mohammad and Jalal Farzaneh, along with co-funding from multiple colleges across OU,” Fritzen said. “When our first scholars arrive, we trust that our campus community will be a microcosm of what the broader effort in the state should be – inclusive, civil and based on the enlightened self-interest that comes from seeing ourselves in others, and others in ourselves.”


How to Get Involved

For more information or to support the resettlement effort, please see the various services and volunteer activities being coordinated by Catholic Charities by clicking here; and/or contact Dean Fritzen at

Article Published:  Wednesday, October 6, 2021