Professors Hong-Ming Liang, Allen Chaparadza, and Sabah Alwan share their stories at an immigration panel moderated by Alison Champeaux.

St. Scholastica Professors Share Their Immigration Stories

Abigail Blonigen

    In the wake of recent political controversy, it has been increasingly difficult to facilitate dialogue among peers which is needed now more than ever. Because of this, the Office of International Programs put together a panel including College of St. Scholastica faculty to discuss their experience as immigrants.

    The panelists consisted of professors Hong-Ming Liang of the History Department who immigrated from Taiwan; Sabah Alwan, Management, who came from Iraq; and Allen Chaparadza, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, whose homeland is Zimbabwe. The discussion was moderated by Alison Champeaux, Director of the Office of International Programs

    “People who are coming to this country actually want to do something good,” said Alwan. “They are not asking you for hand outs; they want to build this country and actually advance it.”

    Panelists discussed misconceptions about immigrants as well as shared their own stories. Both Alwan and Liang went through the legal process to become a U.S. citizen, a process which took each of them over ten years to complete.

    “We can argue about whether one should enter the country undocumented, but if you make the legal system so expensive and so difficult to navigate, you’re almost by public policy encouraging people to try,” said Liang.

    Chaparadza had a different experience as he came to the United States as an international student. He now has a working visa but is unsure if he wants to obtain citizenship.

    “I’m still trying to figure out what it really means to be a U.S. citizen,” he said.

    The three professors also discussed immigration policy itself. According to Champeaux, the United States’ immigration policies have not been substantially updated since the 1960s.

    “As long as we are basing immigration policy on hate, it’s not going to work,” said Chaparadza. “We need to have people with sound judgement.”

    During the audience question and answer portion of the panel, the conversation gravitated to the attitude toward diversity in Duluth and at St. Scholastica.

    “When you come over here to Duluth, it’s a very closed society … It’s hard to connect with others,” said Alwan. “They will give you directions to anywhere in Minnesota, but they will never direct you to their house.”

    Liang mentioned the hostility and push back against the word “diversity” in his classes.

    My advice to all of them is to ask open ended questions and to be humble enough to know what they don’t know … Diversity is not about knowing – it’s an attitude; it’s a spirit,” he said.

    All three panelists attested to the need for more diversity on St. Scholastica’s campus.

    “I’m really hoping in the future CSS will recruit more faculty and students of colors and different backgrounds because I think the school will become smarter, definitely,” said Alwan.