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UNI professors discuss immigrant/refugee issues in the workplace

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Mark Grey, professor of anthropology and director of the New Iowans program, (319) 273-3029
Gwenne Culpepper, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa will participate in Dubuque's 'Faces and Voices' programming, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Midway Hotel in Dubuque.

The event, a community forum and luncheon, is designed to welcome and find new ways to accommodate immigrant and refugee newcomers to the workforce. Topics will include UNI's immigrant/refugee efforts, demographic trends, employer-specific strategies, and the New Iowans program.

Robert Koob, UNI president, will offer introductory remarks. Mark Grey, professor of anthropology and director of the New Iowans Program, will moderate. He also will discuss demographic trends. Panelists for the event are Anne Woodrick, co-director of New Iowans and an associate professor of anthropology; and James Hoelscher, business and community outreach coordinator of the New Iowans program.

'Immigrants and refugees will be needed to make up for pending shortages of resident workers in Iowa,' explained Grey. 'So successful integration of these populations in our workplaces and communities is essential to ensure Iowa's long-term economic and social health.

Established at UNI in 1999, the New Iowans program is the brainchild of Grey, who recently authored a book, 'Welcoming New Iowans,' to augment the program. He and co-author Woodrick recently finished a version of the book written just for Christian churches. The two have approached Jewish and Muslim leaders to discuss a version written for those populations. Another is being written, in conjunction with UNI's Global Health Corps, just for health providers; and 'Welcoming New Iowans: A Guide for Managers and Supervisors' recently was published. All of the books are available at www.bcs.uni.edu/idm/newiowans/.

Iowa, for a variety of reasons, has become a settling site for immigrants and refugees. First, says Grey, is the state's meat packing industry, which provides ample employment opportunities. 'Of course, they may come for those specific jobs,' Grey says, 'but they slowly and surely filter out to other kinds of employment. This is important as it demonstrates how our economy is increasingly dependent on them.'

Immigration, says Grey, is a workforce and economic development issue. 'A lot of us have looked at demographics trends and we are concerned. Birth rates are down, and the workforce is aging rapidly. And then there's the painful reminder that 40 percent of the state's college graduates leave the state. We believe that immigrants can make up for part of the shortfall.'

For more information, contact Mark Grey, director of the New Iowans program, (319) 273-6496.