Exploring Immigration Narratives in the College Classroom

By: Susan Tyburski  

Stories have the power to create crucial human connections, and to bring people together in productive discussion and political action. Earlier this year, I taught an elective course at the University of Denver titled “Immigration Narratives,” in which we explored narratives and counter-narratives of immigrants and refugees in our society arising from the intersections of law, politics, and popular culture. In addition to essays, memoirs, novels, films, web sites and works of art concerning immigrant and refugee experiences, we studied how the U.S. regulates immigration, and considered how race and gender have informed our national discourse on this divisive issue. This paper discusses how the course was organized, the key materials reviewed by the students, the creation of student discussion groups (both in class and online) to encourage a deep dive into these materials, and the students’ use of final creative projects to synthesize what they learned and took away from the course. I discuss what worked well and what I would change in future iterations, and what we, as a class, learned about the importance of crafting safe spaces for respectful, critical dialogue about divisive issues like immigration.

2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Susan Tyburski

Adjunct Instructor, Socio-Legal Studies, University of Denver, United States
United States

Sue Tyburski practiced law for 20 years before retiring. She currently works as an Administrative Law Judge for the State of Colorado, and teaches courses in the Socio-Legal Studies and Gender & Women's Studies programs at the University of Denver. Her research interests include the intersections of law, literature and society. Her primary pedagogical focus is fostering civil, critical dialogue in the midst of an increasingly divisive society.