College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Refugee & Forced Migration Studies > About


What is Refugee and Forced Migration Studies?

The MS in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies is the first program of its kind in the US. It offers students the chance to study the causes and consequences of forced migration and gives them hands-on experience of working with area organizations like Refugee One and the Heartland Alliance. Forced migrants – including refugees, internally displaced people and climate refugees – are increasing at a rapid pace: the UNHCR estimates that there are 45.2 million people displaced all over the world. Syria, Colombia, Pakistan, Turkey, Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan – these are all familiar news stories. But how do you move beyond the statistics to actually making a difference? Our degree studies forced migration and refugee studies within concrete historical, global and human contexts and seeks durable responses to the protracted and harrowing crises of forced migration.

Why Refugee and Forced Migration Studies?

War, famine, development: all these cause flight , health issues, and homelessness. Starting in 1945, world governments decided to do something about this trend. The 1951 Convention on Refugees was the first document to hold governments responsible for the protection of refugees. ( In spite of the UN’s best efforts, the protracted and harrowing crises of forced displacement have consumed tens of millions of lives, challenged and/or ruptured socio-economic and political institutions, provoked widespread xenophobia, and, in some instances, destabilized national, regional and international communities and institutions. Here at RFMS, we study the legal, political and humanitarian resources that can be used to address the crises.

What Do We Do?

The MS in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies​ trains committed individuals in academic and practical skills relevant to a career related to refugee and forced migration. The degree will be enable you to work at diverse sites: on-field refugee organizations, government and non-governmental institutions, pursue further research, or engage with community development, social justice, immigration issues, trauma and health providers, among many others.

We aim to help students:

  • Develop an understanding of the causes and consequences of refugees and forced migration
  • Apply conceptual methodologies and legal frameworks towards an analysis of refugee protection regimes and human rights law
  • Understand health issues related to refugees, internally displaced persons, and forced migrants
  • Acquire skills to work at non-governmental agencies and non-profit institutions in the field
  • Pursue original research