Virginia Tech student’s refugee work draws media attention
October 23, 2017
Graduate student Laura McCarter started studying German in middle school, little knowing that she would parlay her language skills into a passion for providing humanitarian help to refugees.
Now, her portfolio of volunteer activities plus her 10-week summer internship with the U.S. Department of State has caught the eye of her hometown newspaper, the Chesterfield Observer.
McCarter, a Chesterfield native, is profiled in central Virginia’s largest community weekly in a story focused on her research and accomplishments.
After closely following the Syrian refugee crisis for the past four years, McCarter is writing a master’s thesis about Syrian refugees and their access to education in Lebanon. She also works as a volunteer tutor in Blacksburg, helping resettled refugees from Afghanistan and Syria on a range of subjects from English to algebra.
Her other activities involving refugee populations include experience working with Middle Eastern refugees in Munich, where she spent two weeks earlier in 2017 as part of an International Mission Board project providing orientation on German culture.
Courtney Thomas, one of McCarter’s professors of political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, described McCarter as focused and driven, telling the newspaper, “She has consistently developed a commitment to refugee populations.”
In Washington, D.C., McCarter found herself caught up in work at the State Department created by the travel ban, instituted by executive order after President Donald Trump took office. Assigned to the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, McCarter focused on refugee admissions. The assignment required her to collect data about refugee resettlement both in the United States and abroad. She also compiled quality-of-life data about refugees.
The experience included exposure across the federal government because, “during my time at State, interns were invited to volunteer to assist with events in different offices,” McCarter said.
She gained new appreciation for the “dedicated attitude that each of my coworkers exemplified, despite the demanding work environment and climate in Washington.” Her favorite part of the internship was “knowing that the work was making a difference for refugees and people in the United States and across the world.”
McCarter is a graduate assistant in Outreach and International Affairs, where she researches issues related to refugees and the university’s international sites.