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UNI professors go on the road to discuss immigrant/refugee issues in the workplace

Contact: 

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 -- Professors from the University of Northern Iowa will present 'Welcoming Newcomers: A Key to Iowa's Economic Future,' on Wednesday, April 16, in two western Iowa cities. The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Sioux City Convention Center in Sioux City; and from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Best Western Crossroads of the Bluff in Council Bluffs.

The presentations are community forums to discuss new ways to accommodate immigrant and refugee newcomers to the workforce. Topics will include UNI's immigrant/refugee efforts, demographic trends, Iowa success stories, employer-specific strategies, and the New Iowans program.

Robert Koob, UNI president, will offer introductory remarks. Mark Grey, UNI 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 at UNI; and James Hoelscher, business and community outreach coordinator of the New Iowans program.

Those attending will receive the New Iowans guidebook, 'Welcoming New Iowans: A Guide for Managers and Supervisors -- The Best Practices of Iowa Employers with Immigrants and Refugees in the Workplace.'

'Immigrants and refugees will be needed to make up for pending shortages of resident workers in Iowa,' explained Grey. '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 authored the original book, 'Welcoming New Iowans,' to augment the program. He and co-author Woodrick also have written a version of the book for Christian churches. Another is being written, in conjunction with UNI's Global Health Corps, for health providers. The version for businesses and employers is available on the Web at www.uni.edu/bcs/newiowans.

In 'Welcoming New Iowans,' Grey explains immigration, discusses the needs of the newcomers and community members, and talks about ways to address cultural differences and challenges.

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 is, says Grey, 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.'

To RSVP, contact Stacey Christensen, University Marketing and Public Relations, (319) 273-2761, or stacey.christensen@uni.edu.