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Newhouse Junior aims for a career in refugee policy advocacy

Media, law and politics

Yasmine Nayrouz

Yasmin Nayrouz is a junior, studying public relations at the Newhouse School and English at the College of Arts and Sciences.

Last October, she received the Obama Foundation’s Voyager Fellowship, awarded to students who are bridging the gaps and working to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Inspired by misconceptions surrounding migration, she is currently working towards a career in policy advocacy for refugees and displaced families.

  • 01

    When did you decide to pursue a career in refugee policy advocacy?

    After reading memoirs and stories about migration journeys, including the perspectives of refugees, I wanted to work for them. My generation grew up watching the Syrian refugee crisis on the news, and when I think back to some of the stories, it explains why there are misconceptions about migration.

    I would like to help deconstruct [those] because biased or incomprehensible accounts can have harmful consequences. Personally, I was fascinated by migration because my own parents are immigrants [from Egypt].

  • 02

    What was the application process for the Voyager Fellowship like and how did you feel once you received it?

    The traveler [scholarship] was an intense application process, as it had many parts, but not much time before its deadline. It included details about my public service work, a video component, and other questions about my hopes and goals.

    I remember sitting in a cafe with my sister when I received the email that I had received. I was speechless and so grateful, and I remember just hugging my sister in the middle of a coffee. It was an emotional moment for me as I felt like I had the support to pursue my interests and do so without worrying about a financial burden. Joining this program with other students and mentors who are equally passionate about public service is amazing and has given me great hope for our generation.

  • 03

    You mentioned that the scholarship includes a summer trip. Can you explain what it is and how you plan to use it?

    A summer trip means that I will be working on a project related to my public service interests, which can be done anywhere, and this scholarship will fund the expenses.

    I am currently in the process of finding an organization I would like to work with over the summer, and my goal is to gain more practical experience to learn how to work with migration policies and issues, especially in services advocacy and asylum

  • 04

    You worked with Professor Nausheen Husain on a data journalism project around the Muslim travel ban. How was this project?

    For this project, two other students and I helped clean, sort and analyze the data collected by Professor Husain and journalist Rowaida Abdelaziz. We determined the results from the data that supported the story’s demonstration of the impact of the travel ban, and then we created data visualizations that are included in the story.

    [It] really opened my eyes as it humanized the impact of the travel ban, but it was data driven. After working on this project, I knew I had a stake in advocating for immigrants and refugees because their stories often go untold or distorted, which can have serious consequences for public policies or attitudes.

  • 05

    You are currently studying abroad at Syracuse University Center in London. What are you doing there to help broaden your horizons around your advocacy work?

    I am currently taking a course called Multicultural London in which I am learning about UK history and current politics related to migration. We looked at immigrants who fled religious persecution, those arriving for economic opportunity, and asylum seekers.

    London is a great place to learn more about these issues as it is a big topic here as migration was one of the main reasons for Brexit. Additionally, I plan to volunteer at Migrateful Cookery School, a charity in London whose mission is to empower refugees and migrants and support their integration by helping them run cooking classes.

  • 06

    Back in Syracuse, how are you involved on campus?

    One of my main activities on campus is the student union, where I serve as vice president of academic affairs. Through this, I planned mental health awareness weeks, advocated for wellness days, and set up carts to take students to grocery stores. Additionally, I am involved with the literary magazine Perception and have been FYS [First Year Seminar] peer mentor last year for three different classes. Over the summer, I began volunteering with CNY InterFaith Works to help develop programs and other resources relevant to refugees and the organization.

    History of Zach Infeld ’26, a magazine, news and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School and international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes