Translating the immigrant experience into intercultural expertise
Kia Lor’s first day of work was the first day of shutdown on March 16, 2020. The new associate director of the Greenfield Intercultural Center (GIC) wasn’t new to campus however. Lor earned her master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education in 2016, specializing in intercultural communication. A high-achieving first-generation, low-income (FGLI) student, she had recently realized that she could make a career out of intercultural work, which she had done her entire life as a first-generation immigrant.
Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Lor is one of six children, the eldest daughter on whom domestic responsibility falls, Lor says. Her family is Hmong, a “minority of minorities” in Southeast Asia and southwest China. The Hmong people fought alongside the U.S. military in what was supposed to be a covert anti-communist operation and later snowballed into the Vietnam War, Lor says. In exchange for their participation, the Hmong people were offered premier refugee status, which Lor’s mother wanted to use. Her father refused to come to the U.S., preferring to return to his homeland in Laos after the war, while her mother “wanted a better future with more opportunities for her children in the U.S.” Lor says.
Her mother waited until her husband was out of town and marched up to the United Nations Refugee Agency, saying, “My husband died in war. I need to go to America, to this place called Minnesota,” where she had family, Lor says. “The only thing that my mom knew about an airplane was that it’s this bird, this metal bird, and you get inside the bird and it goes into the cloud, and it just disappears. You don’t know where it goes, but hopefully it takes you to the land of freedom.”
Greenfield Intercultural Center Receives $1 Million Gift
The Albert M. Greenfield Intercultural Center (GIC) at the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to announce a $1 million gift to the Center from the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation, which helped to found GIC more than 25 years ago.
The gift, which includes both term and endowment funding, will be used to support and expand student intercultural engagement and programming at Penn.
The term funding will establish the Intercultural Innovations Program at GIC. The Intercultural Innovations Program will be designed to increase the number of Penn students participating in GIC-based intercultural activities and will specifically reach out to students who have not had the opportunity to participate in GIC programs.
The endowment fund will support a part-time staff position within the GIC, seed new initiatives associated with the Intercultural Innovations Program, and enhance current intercultural programming at the GIC.
“This generous gift will give us the opportunity to amplify the work of the center on campus with an emphasis on projects that increase understanding and enhance cultural competency skills among Penn students,” said GIC Director Valerie De Cruz. She added, “In a nation that is growing increasingly diverse and when the potential for conflict across difference also grows, these programs will empower Penn students to engage dynamically and effectively across difference in their 21st century communities and workplaces.”
At a GIC community event announcing the gift, Priscilla Luce, granddaughter of the late Albert M. Greenfield and president of the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation, had this to say, “In your life as a grant maker, few opportunities come along that are so completely meritorious that it does something intensely to your heart. The Greenfield Intercultural Center is one of those places that makes us feel, as grant makers, that we’re adding value, not just to the Penn community, but to the world. GIC is a wonderful partner – we couldn’t be happier to be a part of everything GIC is doing, and we look forward to more great things coming from GIC.”
The Albert M. Greenfield Intercultural Center was established at Penn in 1984 and welcomes all students interested in fostering intercultural understanding on campus. As a site of learning through cross cultural activism, reflection, and dialogue, the GIC promotes co-curricular educational and cultural programs. For more information, please see www.vpul.upenn.edu/gic or call 215-898-3358.
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie De Cruz, 215-898-3358