Madeline Holland

Madeline Holland

Class of 2015, America Field
Project and Outreach Manager, Talent Beyond Boundaries
Madeline Holland

Thesis Title: Stories for Asylum

What Now: Project and Outreach Manager at Talent Beyond Boundaries

After my freshman summer, I taught English to refugee and recent immigrant students at RYSE, one of PBHA's Summer Urban Programs. When my sophomore year began, I kept up with the students I had taught and was also a volunteer with Health Leads, helping low-income patients at Boston Medical Center, many of whom were immigrants and asylum seekers, access services like food stamps and affordable child care. By the time I was able to make my own syllabus in Hist & Lit, I was interested in studying the manifestations and challenges of pluralism in the U.S. I was curious about how the narrative I had grown up on -- America as a home for the "homeless" and "tempest-tost" -- was reflected or undermined in practice and in policy. In that junior tutorial, I remember reading How the Other Half Lives and Twenty Years at Hull House and being struck by how the barriers immigrants at the turn of the 20th century faced to accessing needed services and opportunities were so similar to those barriers I saw students and families facing in my work outside of class. The opportunity to examine my experiences outside the classroom through my coursework in Hist & Lit made both come more alive for me.

After my junior year, I interned in refugee resettlement at the International Rescue Committee and throughout my time there became interested in the stories that people were forced to tell as part of their asylum or refugee application processes. I thought it was a fascinating overlap between narrative and policy, between literature and history. I wrote my thesis on the topic, which steeped me in the stories of forced migrants, and helped me ask questions about the interweaving of people's personal lives and the political systems they rely on. Now I am working for a non-profit called Talent Beyond Boundaries that is linking refugees to global employment and in the process demonstrating that labor mobility -- the ability to move for work -- can be an additional pathway for refugees to reestablish their lives. Every day raises those same questions as my thesis.