Welcome Corps on Campus: Building Sustainable Pathways for Refugee Students

Welcome Corps on Campus: Building Sustainable Pathways for Refugee Access to Higher Education

On September 12, 2023, the Presidents’ Alliance joined the State Department and partners at Georgetown University for the first public event on Welcome Corps on Campus. This event brought together experts in higher education, policymakers, and refugee resettlement organizations to discuss inclusive pathways for refugees to access higher education.

For an overview of Welcome Corps on Campus, download this brochure

You can watch a recording of the event below:

The webinar PowerPoint and background resources on Welcome Corps on Campus can be viewed here.



1:00 PM: Registration

1:25 PM: Welcoming Remarks, Keynote Address, Overview of the Welcome Corps on Campus

  • John J. DeGioia, President, Georgetown University
  • Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
  • Dr. Miriam Feldblum, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration

2:00 PM: Panel Discussion and Q&A

Moderated by

  • Rosie Hughes, Former U.S. Education Pathways Focal Point, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


  • Nele Feldmann, Associate Director, Welcome Corps on Campus, Community Sponsorship Hub
  • Diing Manyang, George Washington University Graduate & Co-Founder, Elimisha Kakuma
  • Jacquelyn Pilch, Welcome Corps Program Manager, State Department 
  • Dr. Darryll Pines, President, University of Maryland

3:00 PM: Closing Remarks & Reception

  • Olivia Issa, Program Lead, Refugee Resettlement Initiative, National Association of System Heads


John J. DeGioia
President, Georgetown University

For four decades, John J. DeGioia has helped to define and strengthen Georgetown University as a premier institution for education and research.  A Georgetown alumnus, Dr. DeGioia served as a senior administrator and as a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy before becoming Georgetown’s 48th president in 2001. As President, Dr. DeGioia is dedicated to deepening Georgetown’s tradition of academic excellence, its commitment to its Catholic and Jesuit identity, its engagement with the Washington, D.C. community, and its global mission.  

Dr. DeGioia is a leading voice in addressing broader issues in education.  He has previously served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education and as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Forum for the Future of Higher Education.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Business-Higher Education Forum.  He concluded his service as a member of the NCAA Board of Governors and the NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors in August 2023. He has also served as the Chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, as Chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Academics, and as a commissioner on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Julieta Valls Noyes
Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

Julieta Valls Noyes, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, became Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration on March 31, 2022.

Previously, she served as Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Foreign Service Institute from 2018-2021. She was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, a NATO Ally and member of the European Union, from 2015-2017. From 2013-2015, Ambassador Noyes served as Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, where she managed relations with twelve Western European countries and the European Union.

As Deputy Executive Secretary for the Department of State from 2011-2013, Ambassador Noyes managed trips and oversaw the preparation of briefing materials for two Secretaries of State. She was Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See from 2008-2011.

Ambassador Noyes has also served as Deputy Director of the Operations Center, the State Department’s 24-hour crisis management and communications center; Director of the Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; and in domestic and overseas positions in the Bureaus of European and Western Hemisphere Affairs.

A graduate of Wellesley College, Ambassador Noyes has a master’s degree from the National Defense University. Her foreign languages are Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and some French. She is the recipient of the Presidential Rank Award, the Distinguished Honor Award, and Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Ambassador Noyes is a first-generation American whose parents entered the United States from Cuba as refugees. She is married to Nicholas Noyes, Jr., a retired Foreign Service Officer.

Dr. Miriam Feldblum
Co-Founder & Executive Director, Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration

Dr. Miriam Feldblum is co-founder and executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance. She previously served in leadership, research, and faculty positions at Pomona College, Caltech, and the University of San Francisco. A national expert on the intersection of immigration and higher education, Miriam has written extensively on immigration and citizenship policy, undocumented, international, and refugee students, and immigration flows and higher education. She received a BA in political science from Barnard College, and MA, MPhil, and PhD in political science from Yale University. She is a non-resident fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

Nele Feldmann
Associate Director, Welcome Corps on Campus, Community Sponsorship Hub

Nele Feldmann is the Associate Director for the Welcome Corps on Campus at the Community Sponsorship Hub where she is leading the organization’s work to implement private sponsorship of refugee students at U.S. campuses. She previously served as the Executive Coordinator of the Global Task Force on Third Country Education Pathways and as the Head of Student Emergency Initiatives at the Institute of International Education where she supported the creation of higher education pathways for refugee students globally. Nele has more than nine years of experience in designing, managing, and supporting programs that expand access to higher education for refugee and displaced student populations. Nele graduated from the University of Bonn in Germany with a Master’s in Translation for Arabic and French and a Bachelor’s in Political Science. She worked and studied in France, Egypt, and Syria, and participated in the prestigious yearly Arabic program at the French Orient Institute in Damascus from 2009-2010.

Rosie Hughes
Former U.S. Education Pathways Focal Point, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Until recently, Rosie Hughes worked with partners to expand refugee education and labor pathways to the United States in her role with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s office in Washington, D.C. She has worked for humanitarian aid organizations in multiple countries across Africa and Asia and as a journalist in France and her home state of Maine.

Olivia Issa
Program Lead, Refugee Resettlement Initiative, National Association of System Heads

Olivia Issa serves as Program Lead for the National Association of System Heads’ (NASH) Refugee Resettlement Initiative (RRI), where she works with public higher education systems to build refugee-inclusion programs on campuses nationally, including via the Welcome Corps on Campus. Olivia has been engaged in migrant-advocacy and resettlement work since she was 15 years old, across Chicago, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., working with a range of nonprofits and government agencies. As a college student, Olivia founded the Welcoming Campus Initiative in the spring of 2021, to increase inclusion of refugee-background students on the George Washington University’s campus through a scholarship, mentorship program, and revised admissions practices. She also served as Executive Director of refugee-advocacy student organization No Lost Generation GWU 2020-2022, where she led lobbying, fundraising, volunteering, and campus-wide education efforts. In 2021, Olivia served as Co-Chair for Student Voices for Refugees, and co-author for “The RESPONSE Campaign,” a 2021 report led by Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration to build infrastructure to increase refugee access to higher education. Throughout her career, Olivia has served as a mentor to 60+ young women and girls with refugee backgrounds to help with college applications, job readiness, and social success. Today, Olivia is a mentor with the Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Center (IROC), and is involved in the Arab community near her home in northern Virginia.

Diing Manyang
George Washington University Graduate & Co-Founder, Elimisha Kakuma

Diing Manyang is a former refugee from Kakuma Refugee Camp and an alum of George Washington University. Diing majored in Systems Engineering and Economics and now works as a Business and Data Analyst for one of the major Financial Services firms in the world. 

Diing’s advocacy work mainly revolves around providing access to higher educational opportunities for refugees. Diing is one of the 4 co-founders of Elimisha Kakuma, a gap year program that prepares high school graduates from Kakuma Refugee Camp to compete for scholarships in the US, Canada, Europe, Kenya, and around the world. Elimisha is a Swahili word that means to “Educate”. Our mission is to provide a network of globally educated refugees impacting challenges in their communities.

Diing has also been involved in other refugee initiatives inclusive of President’s Alliance, and welcoming campus initiative at her alma mater.

Jacquelyn (Jacqui) Pilch
Welcome Corps Program Manager, State Department

Jacqui Pilch is the Program Manager for the Welcome Corps within the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, where she leads the Department’s new refugee private sponsorship initiatives. Prior to re-joining the Department of State, Jacqui served as the Director for Refugees at the National Security Council from the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration until March 2023 and is a recognized technical leader on issues related to refugee resettlement, forced migration, immigration law, and humanitarian response. Jacqui has served across the federal government in roles with the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as with international and non-government organizations, including UNHCR. Her assignments have spanned the globe across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Washington, DC. Jacqui holds an M.A. in forced migration from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a B.A. in international development from American University.

Dr. Darryll Pines
President, University of Maryland

Darryll J. Pines has proudly served as the 34th president of the University of Maryland since July 2020. The Glenn L. Martin Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Dr. Pines has emphasized achieving excellence in all aspects of university life while creating a diverse and multicultural community that allows everyone to reach their full potential. Dr. Pines first arrived on campus in 1995 as an assistant professor and steadily rose through the ranks of academic leadership. He served as chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering from 2006–09 and for the following 11 years as dean and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the A. James Clark School of Engineering. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Institute of Physics; chairs the Engineering Advisory Committee for NSF’s Engineering Directorate; sits on the Board of Trustees for Underwriters Laboratory not-for-profit arm; and serves as a member of the MIT Corporation, the board of trustees for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

About Welcome Corps on Campus

The Welcome Corps on Campus is a groundbreaking opportunity for college and university communities to sponsor refugee students. With the support of institutional leadership, staff, faculty, students, and community members work together to welcome refugee students and provide a softer landing and an educational pathway, setting them up for academic and overall success. U.S. public and private universities and colleges enroll talented students currently living as refugees overseas and support their resettlement to the U.S. As part of the college and university sponsorship program, refugee students will apply to be admitted as first-year students at the sponsoring two or four-year college or university and enter the U.S. as refugees.

The Welcome Corps on Campus operates under the umbrella of the Welcome Corps, the broader U.S. private sponsorship program that was launched by the U.S. Department of State in January 2023 for refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The Department of State funds a consortium of non-profit organizations with expertise in resettlement and higher education to implement the Welcome Corps on Campus. Led by Community Sponsorship Hub (CSH), the consortium includes Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR), the Institute of International Education (IIE), the National Association of System Heads (NASH), the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, and World University Service of Canada (WUSC).

Learn more about Welcome Corps on Campus here