Dr. Susan Munkres is the director of the University of Vermont’s Community-University Partnerships and Service-Learning [CUPS]. Prior to Munkres joining UVM’s faculty in 2011, she earned her doctorate in sociology. While working on her dissertation, she explored the identities of privileged participants in alliance movements; particularly how these individuals explained the relationships between themselves and the disadvantaged groups with which they are aligning. Dr. Munkres also conducted her own research on how U.S. foreign policy in the 1980s impacted average, everyday citizens of an El Salvadorian city. Though none of this research dealt directly with refugees, Munkres believes her background in understanding the sociological imagination can forge a connection between personal troubles and public issues. This contextualization, she believes, is crucial in working with refugees.
As director of CUPS, Munkres supports service-learning classes by finding grants and teaching assistants and facilitating collaboration between the university and the community. CUPS’ refugee-related history came out of an expressed need from students to support and protect refugee networks. In an effort to address this, CUPS helps connect interested students with faculty already working with refugees, so that students can get involved in a supervised manner. Their goal is to help students have a clear, defined pathway for working with refugees, and hopefully build relationships within the refugee network. Another role of CUPS is to help community partners navigate UVM. Due to a lack of communication among members of the institution, community partners are often forced to communicate with each researcher and staff member at the university individually. CUPS helps to centralize the university-community partnerships, offering a medium through which insights and knowledge gained from various projects are more easily shared. She hopes to expand this communication network with both St. Michael’s College and Champlain College.
Currently, Munkres, and all of CUPS, is working on developing a Pathways Document. This document will connect students who are looking to work with refugees to opportunities at local community organizations and will also provide students with the necessary training to work directly with refugee populations. The Pathways Document will show students how to connect with their advisors in order to take action, with the goal of helping community organizations that serve refugees find the best-prepared students possible. Beyond utilizing the documents, Munkres urges students to strategically take advantage of what UVM has to offer in classes and programs that relate to these issues, especially in the diversity classes, as well as seeking out faculty that work with refugees. She advises students to prioritize their volunteer positions over other commitments because these refugee-serving organizations are some of the most underfunded organizations in Burlington, and these organizations are taking a risk in working with students. If it is not possible for a student to get a position with a refugee serving organization, Munkres suggests volunteering with organizations that work with other vulnerable populations, as many of the issues refugees face are not limited to this specific group, but are shared across many marginalized people. These general issues include food security, homelessness, transportation, sexual equality, mental health issues, English language learning, and educational access.
You can find more information about CUPS at: http://www.uvm.edu/partnerships/
Susan Munkres, Ph.D.
Name: Susan Munkres
With UVM Since: 2011
Title: CUPS Director
Department/College: Office of Community-University Partnerships and Service Learning (CUPS)