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Professor Strives to Use Music to Share the Culture of Refugees
Erica Haskell, Ph.D., an ethnomusicologist who is serving as the University’s newest Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation Endowed Professor, is launching a project that celebrates diversity, builds community, and provides hands-on learning opportunities for students.
October 15, 2019
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Before joining the University of New Haven faculty in 2012, Erica Haskell, Ph.D. lived and worked in a refugee camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While in Europe, she also visited camps in Hungary, Serbia, and Romania, recording refugee stories and songs from around the world.
She hopes to continue this work through the launch of the Schindler Refugee Music Project, which will share the experiences of refugees living in New Haven, by presenting their stories and the music of their home countries through podcasts.
The project, which will be housed in a digital archive at the University, will be modeled after the work of Ben Stonehill, who recorded thousands of songs from Holocaust survivors temporarily housed in New York.
"I hope that the Schindler courses I teach facilitate discussions about historic oppression as well as frame current events within a social justice lens."Erica Haskell, Ph.D.
Dr. Haskell is taking on this project as part of her role as the University’s Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation Endowed Professor, a position that is awarded on a competitive basis every three years to a faculty member who will dedicate research and academic time to working with students on projects related to principles underlying altruism, in particular, the widespread encouragement of good human conduct.
"I am honored to have received this opportunity to work with our students on addressing valuable questions about our role in fostering good human behavior," said Dr. Haskell. "Through the Schindler Refugee Music Project, we will celebrate the diversity of cultural identity and its meaningfulness through refugee music."
The University’s Oskar Schindler Humanities Foundation Endowed Professorship was established through a major gift in honor of the inauguration of Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D. as the sixth president of the University.
In addition to teaching the Oskar Schindler Humanities Course this spring, she will lead a special topics course in the Music Department titled "Refugee Music and Stories," a service-learning course in which students will do interviews, attend community events, and produce digital podcasts. Both courses are open to students from all majors.
"This endowed professorship highlights the University of New Haven’s commitment to engaging students in civic actions that help them to be better humans," she said. "I hope that the Schindler courses I teach facilitate discussions about historic oppression as well as frame current events within a social justice lens."
"Music empowers refugees to make social justice statements, express human dignity and affirm self-determination, while deemphasizing stereotypes, and enriching us all."Erica Haskell, Ph.D.
Under Dr. Haskell’s direction, students will have the opportunity to engage in the Schindler Refugee Music Project by conducting one-on-one ethnographic interviews with musicians in New Haven. Faculty members and students will participate in the recording and editing phases of the project, which she hopes will be broadcast on WNHU, the University’s award-winning radio station.
"The digital repository and historical record that will be created will provide a truly great benefit to the community-at-large for many years to come," she said. "Music empowers refugees to make social justice statements, express human dignity and affirm self-determination, while deemphasizing stereotypes, and enriching us all."