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DU Launches Research Center, First of its Kind in Rocky Mountain West

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Nika Anschuetz





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With community engagement at the forefront, Rebecca Galemba and Lisa Martinez, migration scholars at the University of Denver, co-founded the Center for Immigration Policy and Research (CIPR) – a research center dedicated to migration issues in the Rocky Mountain West. And while CIPR’s official launch date is in April 2022, its story starts in 2018.

That fall, DU launched its first Knowledge Bridge incubator, a part of DU IMPACT 2025 under then-Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. The Shark Tank-style competition awards up to $300,000 for problem-based research.

Both center founders teach classes on migration: Galemba, an associate professor, with the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Martinez, a professor, in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. While Evans Avenue separates their offices, they are no strangers.

With a mutual interest in migration, each wanted to submit a Knowledge Bridge proposal. Then it hit them.

“Let’s just join forces,” Martinez recalls.

From that point on, they worked as a team, bringing together colleagues from across campus -- not only faculty, but also staff and students. Many of the incipient ideas came from the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Collectivo – a student group dedicated to activism, community partnership and organizing education on immigrant rights in Denver.

After a nearly 18-month proposal process, the competition ended in March 2020 – just as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold.

Galemba remembers it vividly.

“They had invited us all out to a bar to announce the winners, and they just said, ‘Never mind.’”

Without fanfare, Galemba and Martinez were awarded $300,0000 to launch CIPR. Many centers are dedicated to migration, Martinez says, but most are in traditional immigrant destinations such as Arizona, California, Texas, New York and Chicago. In the Rocky Mountain West, though, migrants’ issues get little attention.

“When we present our work, when we're publishing our work, there's always a sense that we have to contextualize beyond what perhaps some of our colleagues at other universities have to do,” Martinez says.

CIPR will centralize other immigration work DU is doing in Colorado.

“Our goal is to also create a space where scholars working on wider, transnational immigration issues, even refugee issues, also feel welcome in that space, even if it’s not our first focus,” Galemba says.

In addition to conducting research, the center will emphasize community impact and strive for mutually beneficial collaboration.

CIPR’s “semillas” (or seeds) grants were awarded to faculty, staff and community partners.

“It’s not just replicating the usual research center model of the ivory tower,” Martinez says. “It’s very much a feedback loop.”

Through innovation and collaboration, CIPR is striving for inclusivity over traditionality.

“Traditional avenues tend to recycle this idea of what research looks like and where it comes from, which is very exclusionary,” Galemba says. “We’re really thinking about how we can push forward.”

They’ll have a chance to push their ideas forward on April 7-8 at CIPR’s debut symposium.