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New Year’s Resolutions: Expand Access to Education and Employment for Refugees

SNHU GEM students’ 2021 accomplishments show how empowering refugees enhances communities and creates more economic opportunity for all.

A new year goes hand-in-hand with hopes, aspirations, and setting resolutions. Maybe we’ll finally run a 5K or start meditating. Maybe your goal involves education – learning a new language, earning a degree, or taking classes to help land a new job. But for millions of refugees around the world, the hope of accessing an education, or meaningful employment, seems unimaginable. Today, just 5% of refugees have access to higher education.

That’s why at Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM), we’re starting off the new year with fresh resolve to further our mission of transforming individual lives, entire communities, and the future of higher education by providing refugees around the world with the opportunity to earn accredited degrees that open pathways to employment. As the first large-scale, blended learning program for refugees, we will continue to expand our efforts and bring accessible education and employment pathways  to more displaced and underserved learners in the coming year.

SNHU GEM has come a long way since it began in 2017. SNHU President Paul LeBlanc noted in his recent year-end reflection, “Four years ago, GEM started with one site in Rwanda and has since expanded to five countries with 10 sites and more than 3,500 students and alumni. We’ve seen our students exemplify GEM’s mission of transformative outcomes – leveraging their SNHU GEM degrees to transform the lives of those in their community.”

In 2021, despite the challenges of the past year – a continuing global pandemic, an intensifying climate crisis, growing refugee crises around the world – our inspiring students and alumni continued to use the skills they cultivated through their competency-based degree program and professional internships to gain employment, launch their own businesses and become change agents within their communities. 

SNHU GEM alumnus Remy Gakwaya was recently recognized as a Falling Walls Breakthrough of the Year for launching the groundbreaking Dzaleka Entrepreneurship Center, with support from SNHU, to offer first-of-its-kind coding skills to more than 2,000 students in Malawi’s Dzaleka refugee camp. 

David Kinzuzi, another SNHU GEM grad, who is working on behalf of other displaced people, environmental causes, and African leadership, was just named a Schwarzman Scholar. He is SNHU’s first Schwarzman Scholar.

Students and graduates  participated in international conferences, including RewirED in Dubai and 36 Million Solutions in Rwanda, to share their powerful personal testimonies and advocate for continued expansion of higher education access for refugees and those in emergency and conflict settings. 

Our students continually inspire us. They are proof that when allowed to break through barriers, refugees enhance their communities and create more economic opportunity for all. In the year ahead, we will continue to partner with GEM students and alumni, pursue new, creative models of higher education that meet students where they are, regardless of their circumstances.