Strategic Initiative Group on Immigration Created at the University

Lauren Kourey, Staff Writer

Following approval by the Provost last fall, the Strategic Initiative Group (SIG) on Immigration and Refugee Protection has been created on Villanova’s campus. 

According to Michele Pistone, J.D., SIG arises from an Action Plan that has been developed by Villanova faculty and students over the last few years. The SIG is a response to “Pope Francis’ call on Catholic colleges and universities to promote research and teaching about, and the social promotion of, immigrants and refugees,” Pistone said. 

​​Pistone has been particularly instrumental in SIG’s creation process. 

“As the most senior faculty member at Villanova researching migration and refugee issues, I felt it was my duty to lead a response by the University to Pope Francis’ call,” she said. “It was as if I was being called personally to respond”. 

In addition to teaching law at the Charles Widger School of Law, Pistone is a Faculty Director for Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates, the Director of the Clinic for Asylum, Refugee & Emigrant Services (CARES) and a Co-Managing Editor for the Journal on Migration and Human Security. 

“Villanova University was established to serve and educate immigrants and the SIG is a continuation of this long-established mission,” Pistone said. “The formation of a SIG is a step needed to determine the viability of establishing a University Institute on migration and refugee protection.”

Creating the Strategic Initiative Group has been a group effort, and many other professors at Villanova University have gotten involved. Raúl Diego Rivera Hernández, Karyn Hollis, Samer Abboud, Father Art Purcar, and Caitlin Barry, J.D., have also been influential in the creation of SIG. Hollis hopes the group’s first meetings will drive support for the Migration Studies minor and other programs on campus. 

SIG’s first informational meeting will be held on Jan. 19 at 12 p.m. in the Driscoll Hall Auditorium. During this first session, SIG leaders will be facilitating a Community Visioning process, in which community members will create a mission statement and key objectives for the group. They also hope to “identify 12 to 18 members of the community, including faculty, staff and students, to work with our community partners to engage in a series of sessions to develop the Community Vision for the SIG,” according to Pistone. 

 The first Community Visioning Working Group Brainstorming Session will be held on Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. at the Inn at Villanova. Pistone encourages all members of the Villanova community to attend these events and participate in SIG’s development on campus.