By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing
Jody McBrien, a professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, presented her research on LGBTQIA+ refugees to the Federation of Women’s Clubs Overseas at its Biennial Conference on March 25 in Bratislava, Slovakia.
McBrien’s research examines progress made by LGBTQIA+ refugees who participate in The Dream Academy, an online 10-week program created by Safe Place International that provides training and mentoring in social and emotional learning, post-traumatic stress counseling and career skills.
With a small team of researchers that included Professor Emeritus Devin Thornburg from Adelphi University and undergraduate students — Mario Villegas from USF (now a graduate student at the University of Florida), Chani Lieu from Adelphi and Ngan Nguyen from a university in Vietnam — more than 100 hours of The Dream Academy classes were transcribed and coded to learn how they address the needs of the LGBTQIA+ refugee participants and how it creates positive change.
Using theories of change, self-actualization and online social support, the team found that a combination of tangible support, information, companionship and emotional support helped the participants move from a space of isolation and fear to a recognition that they were not alone and that they were capable of accessing careers and leadership roles.
In addition, McBrien launched a new research project at FAWCO, which is made up of American expatriate women, that will explore the lives of expatriate women in Europe.
“There is absolutely no research on these women,” McBrien said. “They have careers that include work as lawyers, software engineers, financial advisors, doctors, professors, artists and much more. Additionally, they are highly engaged in international concerns that include poverty, climate change and human rights. I am excited to conduct and publish work about their lives so that the knowledge goes beyond anecdotal stories.”
McBrien has done extensive research on international refugees. She was on sabbatical in Paris in February 2022 working for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as a Council of Foreign Relations fellow when Russia invaded Ukraine, creating the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Her expertise suddenly in high demand, McBrien wrote policy briefs and a blog post on how to help Ukrainian refugees for the OECD and participated in several panels and discussions on the needs of refugee students.
Founded in 1931, FAWCO is made up of representatives of American expatriate women worldwide. The local country organizations are dedicated to providing opportunities for American expatriate members to gather for social, cultural and philanthropic activities. Such events include city walks, visits to museums, language learning, service at soup kitchens and lectures.
FAWCO has had special consultative status with the United Nations since 1997. Members participate in the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Climate Conference. The group also selects a small woman-led organization to support for three years through fundraising.
This year the organization selected Awesome Blossoms, a small environmental organization in Nairobi, Kenya. On the final night of the conference, FAWCO raised $46,000 at a silent auction held before the FAWCO celebration dinner.