A Letter from the Executive Director: 15 Years with ISIM

It is hard to believe that we at ISIM are finishing celebration of our 15th anniversary year. When Andy Schoenholtz, Lindsay Lowell and I came to Georgetown on January 3, 1998, we hoped but did not know that our idea would become a world-renowned institute for the study of international migration. We came to Georgetown at the behest of two of the university’s faculty who were already recognized as international experts on migration—Charles Keely, Professor in the Demography Department and Alexander Aleinikoff, Professor at the Law Center. The prospect of working with Charlie and Alex were among the many reasons that Georgetown was so appealing a home for us.

Our immediate goal was to establish a place where we could carry on the type of research that we had done as the senior leadership team at the US Commission on Immigration Reform. We believed fervently (as we continue to do) that policies needed to be based on the best evidence available on the impacts of migration on destination, source and transit countries as well as the migrants and their families. ISIM was founded to stimulate multi-disciplinary research to build up a solid evidence base on the effects of migration and bring the findings to the attention of policy makers and practitioners. We would carry out our own policy-relevant research while ISIM would also provide a base for collaboration with others at the university and beyond. As new colleagues joined us, that mission expanded. Most notably, Elzbieta Gozdziak took leadership as editor of the journalInternational Migration, which has become one of the most prestigious outlets for publication in the field.  

From the beginning, education of the next generation of leaders in the migration field was a prime objective of ISIM. At first, we responded to the interest of students to take individual courses, such as Refugee Law and Policy. With growing pressure from our students, ISIM launched the Certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies. The certificate is open to students in the masters programs in the School of Foreign Service, McCourt School of Public Policy, and Government and Communications, Cultural and Technology Departments as well as the Law Center. The graduating classes have grown from a dozen students in our first year to an average of 50-60 students today. More recently, we added a mid-career professional education program, the Certificate in International Migration Studies, which is offered through Georgetown’s School for Continuing Studies. Work is underway on an online component of the Migration Studies Certificate, which will allow us to reach students throughout the world.

Georgetown’s great convening power was another draw of the university. We have been fortunate to be able to host large and small conferences, symposiums and workshops during the past fifteen years. To mark our anniversary, we had the pleasure of inviting Senator Dick Durbin, a double alumnus of Georgetown, back to the Hilltop to discuss immigration reform. The session was part of a larger project on U.S. immigration reform that is discussed in another article.

These have been a splendid 15 years of collaboration with colleagues at ISIM and Georgetown. I believe I speak for all of us at ISIM in saying that the decision to come to Georgetown was a most fortuitous one. Being in one of the premiere centers of learning in the world brings many advantages, not least of which is a student body that excels beyond our expectations.  Many of our students have served as Research Assistants, contributing greatly to our research products.

In 2013, we have been very fortunate to have two new staff members join us, Lex Nowak (Assistant Program Manager) and Zachary Brown (Research Associate). Their valuable contributions to ISIM's success have already been evident.

I hope you will enjoy reading about our most recent projects and publications and meet our excellent research staff. 

Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year,

Susan Martin