BLOG: When history, evaluation, and self meet

Evgenia Valuy

When I agreed in January to write a blog reflecting on To Rescue Scholars is to Rescue the Future, I could not anticipate how emotional writing it in March would be. Just as I did not anticipate how emotional it would be to write that report last year.

To Rescue Scholars is to Rescue the Future, released in April 2021, documented the impact of over 200 IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) alumni, threatened and displaced scholars worldwide, who received fellowships since 2002.

For me, the emotional part began with survey design. “Sensitizing the questions” sounds scientific. In reality, it means putting yourself in the respondents’ shoes and turning on your empathy to consider whether the questions may unintentionally re-traumatize the alumni. How can we ask someone who was forced to make a home in another country what is their home country? How can we ask someone who may not have been able to continue working in academia about their academic publications? How can we ask about volunteering and advocacy while being sensitive to the danger of such work for some alumni?

Then came reading the responses – all of the essay responses. Our report may have featured only the selected few, but we read each and every one of them – it is the ethics of any researcher and evaluator and the least we owe people who took the time to share their stories in the hope of being heard. We read. We opened our hearts. We heard.

Writing this report was a work of the heart as much as the mind. The old-fashioned notion of an objective evaluator… Yes, we cannot let our opinions lead to misrepresentation of data or omission of findings. But we can, and should, care because it makes us better evaluators. Because it makes us better people.

No, I did not anticipate how emotional it would be to write that report last year. And I did not anticipate how emotional it would be writing this blog in the Spring of 2022.

I encourage you to read the report to learn the stories of these amazing IIE-SRF alumni who cared not to be silent. I encourage us all to care more about this work and the lives it touches. Please read the report to learn about the impact of scholar rescue on these academics and the broader community. If you’re able, donate to IIE-SRF to fund more fellowships for threatened academics to continue their work. Sign up with your community organization to help resettle refugees. Whatever you choose to do, I hope the report inspires you to support those who have been forced to leave their homelands.

I dedicate this blog to Bronislava Abramovna Evseeva (née Meerson), my grandmother, who turned 90 on March 14, 2022, and was evacuated from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, by way of Kazakhstan to Perm’, Russia, in June 1941, and therein to all who are forced to leave their country to build a new life in a foreign land.