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Refugee Teaching Institute - Course Series

Artwork from Hmong exhibit at UC Merced's gallery

Artwork previously displayed at the UC Merced Art Gallery: Hmongstory 40

About this series

CRES lecture with audience in classroom.This series employs a critical refugee studies framework to engage and expand public humanities narratives of Central Valley life. The four-course series will center refugees’ experiences with militarism, displacement, and resettlement as a starting point for conversations with various communities in the Central Valley. Participants will learn from community members, including students and their families on topics such as refugee and immigration history, refugee health, and refugee media and storytelling.


At the end of the course students should be able to:

  1. Participate in learning through interacting and collaborating with community members
  2. Understand the history of refugee and migration in Merced and key issues in challenges that refugees and immigrants encountered
  3. Interpret the intersecting histories of conquest, state violence, and forced relocation in Merced that connects Latinx, Asian American, Middle Eastern, indigenous, and African American communities
  4. Engage with storytelling as a critical methodology for learning and developing an inclusive curriculum
  5. Analyze the diverse history and experiences of communities in Merced and the Central Valley, and cite them as sources of knowledge
  6. Produce a module curriculum for teaching on refugees, immigrants, and ethnic studies for high school students


Part 1: Refugee Media and Storytelling
This workshop involves a community showcase of media and storytelling projects that refugees have created as well as discussions on how to create more space for refugee stories. Teachers are invited to lead a workshop on poetry and fiction writing. Another workshop focuses on media-making and DIY techniques. Participants will also have the opportunity to create a written piece and/or a work of media that speaks to their story and history. Any of the cultural works produced as a result of the workshops can be integrated into the proposed high school curriculum.


Part 2: Refugee and Immigration History in Merced
This 2-day workshop will include presentations in the form of narratives or cultural performances on the history of Merced, students' and parents' story-sharing about their migration from their home countries and resettlement in the city, and teachers' story-sharing about working with refugee students and parents.


Part 3: Refugee Health and Mental Health
This workshop focuses on how refugees encounter institutions of care as well as enact their forms of well-being in Merced as they resettle in a community that already has its layered history of dislocation and migration.


Part 4: Teacher Presentations
This workshop is held after teachers have had enough time to incorporate feedback on their curriculum. As teachers are turned into knowledge producers, this workshop will ask teachers to create and share their curriculum proposals with refugee students and their parents for feedback. 


Who should take this series?

This course is geared towards educators who are interested in learning about culturally responsive pedagogy and ethnic studies.

Meet the professor:

Ma Vang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor for Ethnic Studies & History
UC Merced, School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Arts

Professor Ma VangRecognizing the need for a rich, nuanced understanding of the different people and cultures that have shaped the state’s history, in 2019 California legislators proposed a law that would require all California high school students to take an ethnic studies course. Anticipating passage of the law in 2021, Professor Ma Vang and the Critical Refugee Studies Collective (CRSC)—a group of scholars dedicated to centering refugees’ experiences in research, education, and public initiatives—have begun to meet the need for inclusive and representative curriculum head-on in Merced County.

Professor Vang has received a Public Engagement Fellowship from the Whiting Foundation to launch the Refugee Teaching Institute (RTI), a series of public workshops facilitated by scholars and educators that will bring high school teachers together with refugee students and parents to collaborate on lesson plans that reflect refugees’ histories and life-words; the work will also incorporate the dispossession of indigenous Miwok and Yokut peoples and the relocation to the region of African-Americans from the U.S. South.

With strong support from Merced County schools, the Refugee Teaching Institute is poised to build a foundation for long-term educational partnerships that translate refugee knowledge into curriculum and expand narratives about life in the Central Valley.

Cost & how to enroll:

This entire series cost $395 and you can earn 4 CEUs. 

The course can be partially subsidized by a grant from the Whiting Foundation. Please email with a brief explanation of your interest in participating in the course along with the school district and name of your school affiliation to inquire about subsidized enrollment. 

Attendance will be opened to the community for non-graded participation approximately two weeks prior to the four individual sessions.

This series will be held in 2022 pending Covid-19 status.  If you would like to be notified when the series publishes the dates, please send us an email with your contact information so we can update you.