SU Trustee Christine Larsen funds local immigrant/refugee study
Beginning this summer, the Maxwell School’s Community Geography Program will conduct a comprehensive assessment of community needs and assets among immigrants and refugees in the Syracuse area. That study is being funded by a gift of more than $110,000 from Syracuse University trustee Christine Larsen, her husband Vincent Dopulos, and their daughters Katherine and Phoebe.
The pilot study is designed to directly engage immigrant communities and the organizations that work on their behalves, to investigate questions of housing, health, education, recreation, and workforce participation. After basic, existing data are assembled this summer, student interns will work through the fall to meet remaining data needs. The students will then create a report, to be presented next spring to the refugee and immigrant communities and to organizations that support them. The students’ work will be guided by Jonnell Robinson, associate professor of geography and director of the Community Geography Program, with Jamie Winders, professor of geography, also participating.
Winders says that one of the great benefits of the project is the research opportunities it affords students. “This kind of ‘bottom-up approach’ to engaged scholarship,” she said, “gives our students incredible opportunities to take the skills and perspectives they learn in our classroom into the wider world. In this way, they support the missions of the local organizations working with and serving Syracuse’s ‘New Americans.’”
The project also serves Community Geography’s larger purpose, making research capabilities at the Maxwell School available in service of the local community. “Many of the organizations working with immigrant and refugee communities in Syracuse just don’t have the bandwidth or resources to do a deep dive into what they see as the most pressing issues and questions related to these communities,” Winders said.
Larsen explained that gift, given by Dopulos, herself, and their children, resulted from family discussions around shared values. The Larsen/Dopulos family has long supported Syracuse-area refugees through Hopeprint, a nonprofit based on the northside of Syracuse, providing support services to the 12,000-15,000 refugees now estimated to be settled in the city and its environs. The organization is focused on the immediate post-resettlement time period, connecting new refugees with community resources that exist to support them.
“Our hearts are with these new Americans,” Larsen says. “We approached Maxwell to help us create a program that promotes positive connections between the University and this local population.”
Larsen recently retired as chief operations officer of First Data, a position she’d held since June 2013; in the job, she led the company's global operations, overseeing 13,000 employees. She was previously executive vice president at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a managing director at Citigroup. She is a 1984 graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool), with a master’s degree in library and information science. She is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, and chair of its Academic Affairs Committee; and serves on the iSchool’s Board of Advisors. Her daughter Katherine is a current graduate student at the iSchool.