Understanding Immigration Through Personal Stories

Understanding Immigration Through Personal Stories

Students in Dr. Michał Kwiecień’s Introduction to Economics course had the opportunity to conduct an in-class interview with two immigrants close to their teacher’s heart: his parents. Danuta and Marek Kwiecień were on campus last week and shared their experience of relocating to the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. 

For the interview activity, students worked in pairs and prepared several interview questions that reflect their understanding of the eight dimensions of immigration: social, political, linguistic, psychological, economic, civic, family, and identity. The interview activity will be followed by a seminar discussion and a short essay. 

“The topic of immigration has been a relatively new addition to my Economics course: I first introduced it in the fall of 2021,” said Dr.Kwiecień. “This year, however, was the first time that I designed an activity centered on my family’s experience(s). The purpose of the interview was to demonstrate to students that immigration transcends both politics and economics. There are so many inaccurate and harmful stereotypes surrounding immigrants in the U.S. By examining the many different dimensions of immigration—the different factors that propel people to relocate to the United States—I sought to “humanize” and complicate this issue. I did not want my students to view immigrants as abstractions or “outsiders.” Rather, the interview with my parents resolved to educate students about the challenges and risks of migration while also offering a small glimpse into their teacher’s family life which is intricately bound up with immigration.”

Ilana Boyer '23 appreciated hearing the in-person account of the Kwiecieńs' immigration story.

"Being able to hear the story of immigrants sitting right in front of me opened my eyes to the reality of what it is really like to be an immigrant in the United States," said Ms. Boyer. "I was able to gain a better understanding of different aspects and challenges of immigration that I previously was unable to understand after just reading an article."

Danuta and Marek Kwiecien share their immigration story with students in Intro to Econ
 Dr. Michał Kwiecień and his parents, Danuta and Marek Kwiecien