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Wien Alumni Network hosts panel discussion on international migration

Moderator Deborah Berebichez '96, chief data scientist at Metis and TV host at Discovery Channel; panelists Juan Corradi '65, MA'67, PhD '73, professor of sociology at NYU; Vyjayanthi Rao '89, director of Terreform Center for Advanced Urban Research; and Geir Haarde '73, ambassador of Iceland to the United States

What motivates a person to upend their life and travel across the world to live in a country thousands of miles away?

This was among the questions posed to a panel of Wien alumni who came together on March 31 in New York for a discussion on human migration in the 21st century, continuing a Wien Alumni Network tradition of hosting prominent alumni to foster dialogue on issues of global importance through the lens of personal experience. View slideshow of photos from the event.

The distinguished panelists included Geir Haarde ’73, the former prime minister of Iceland and the country’s current ambassador to the United States; Vyjayanthi Rao ’89 (India), director of Terreform Center for Advanced Urban Research; and Juan Corradi ’65, MA’67, PhD’73 (Argentina), professor of sociology at NYU. The panel’s moderator was Debbie Berebichez ’96 (Mexico), chief data scientist at Metis and a TV host for the Discovery Channel.

There are few topics timelier than the state of human migration in the world today, with unprecedented population growth, global economic interconnectedness and refugee crises unfolding in the Middle East and other regions. The panel discussion and ensuing Q&A with the audience of more than 50 alumni and guests continued for more than 90 minutes, but there were a few key takeaways:

-- People feeling the pull of “greener pastures” is a phenomenon that long predates the nation state, yet successive waves of migration have helped define national identities, perhaps nowhere more so than the United States. The panelists challenged the audience to take a step back and frame today’s often divisive discourse in terms of the longer arc of history.

-- While newcomers can provoke negative, panicked reactions in societies, particularly in times of economic, social or electoral turmoil, our global economy and increasingly interconnected world would be scarcely recognizable if not for the presence of new people, physical or virtual. 

-- The panelists pointed out that it is extremely difficult to generalize the stories of so many who uproot themselves and their families to relocate to a place with a vastly different culture, language and climate. But it is important to recognize how their presence can enrich society, and our lives, and do our best to depoliticize the discourse around how we integrate immigrants into our communities.

The panelists, each of who had their own migration story bound by the common thread of Brandeis and the Wien scholarship, the words they chose to define their motivation to leave their home and make a new life – opportunity, hope, cosmopolitanism and freedom – no doubt rung true for many of those in attendance.

Categories: Events
Date: March 31, 2016