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Building Social and Cultural Understanding

Through education, scholarship, and outreach the University of Minnesota builds understanding and equality among communities across town, across the state, and across the world. Donors join University faculty and students in their commitment to furthering the social and cultural rights of all—whether they are torture victims in a war-torn country, underprivileged youth in a struggling inner-city neighborhood, or rural residents who want more opportunities.

Family History Reveals Struggles of an Entire Generation

Professor Erika LeeWhile sifting through thousands of immigration files from the first half of the 20th century, Erika Lee, a past McKnight Land Grant Professor and Fesler-Lampert Professor in Public Humanities, found plenty of material for a book on the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco, co-authored with historian Judy Yung. But her scholarly research for what would become Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America also turned up a lost chapter of her personal history when she found the interrogations, passport photos, and wedding pictures of her grandparents, who had come to the United States from China. "They came during a time when several hundred thousand Chinese were seeking opportunity abroad." Lee explains. "The problem was that the United States had passed restrictive laws relating to Chinese immigration starting in the 1880s." All the barriers made it a time many Chinese immigrants—including Lee's grandparents—wanted to forget. "I was finally able to recover that piece of family history and tell that story again," she notes. "So, it's a personal story but it's also a story about a community that's learning to find its place in American history."

Explore the difficult history of Chinese immigrants to America in a slideshow narrated by professor Erika Lee

‘These Stories Can’t Be Forgotten’

Image of Young Prem DobiášThe bloody civil wars in the former Yugoslavia at the end of the last century are still fresh in the mind of Monica Miller, ’09 J.D. The inaugural Dobiáš Human Rights Fellow, Miller worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands. “I worked in the Office of the Prosecutor, which prepares cases against persons accused of war crimes in the 1990s,” she explains. Experience like Miller’s was what donor Bill Drake, ’66 J.D., had in mind when he established the fellowship in honor of his good friends Prem and Hana Dobiáš, both of whom survived the Holocaust. “To spread awareness of how human rights abuses happen and to hold people accountable, these stories can’t be forgotten,” Drake says. Miller worked on the case against Radovan Karadžić, who has been indicted for genocide and other war crimes. “The process was incredible; the cases often included hundreds of witnesses and thousands of documents,” she says. “Some of the accused were at large for many years, but case work was still done, without knowing if they would ever be apprehended.”

View a slideshow about the life of Holocaust survivor and fellowship honoree Prem Dobiáš.

Where Plants and Children Bloom

Child Watering GardenFor overall healthy development, kids need nurture in nature. Studies show that time in nature can reduce obesity, lengthen attention spans, and heighten curiosity. But inner-city youth often lack access to the great outdoors, which is why the U’s Landscape Arboretum brings nature to the city through its privately supported Urban Children’s Garden in Residence program. The Arboretum partners with local agencies to offer kids ages five through nine a chance to get their hands dirty exploring nature and learning about the connections between plants and daily life. Michael Deleon, a program alum who returned to teach at the Children’s Garden, said, “Without this program, I wouldn’t have gained the confidence and skills to get a job and continue in school.”

Explore the Urban Children’s Garden in a short video.

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