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NASH Announces $230,000 Grant from the WES Mariam Assefa Fund to Catalyze Leadership Role for Public University Systems in Refugee Resettlement

September 23, 2022

Funding will enable public higher education systems across the nation to support their campuses in serving as communities of welcome for refugees in both urban and rural areas as U.S. ramps up refugee resettlement efforts

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2022

Contact: David Belsky; 347-227-0055;

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of System Heads’ (NASH) Refugee Resettlement Initiative (RRI) announced today a $230,000 grant from the World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund. The funding will support NASH to raise awareness of the leadership role public systems of higher education have in refugee resettlement; provide additional support to current and future refugee student and refugee family programs; and help procure future funds from the federal, state, and private sectors.

“NASH’s Refugee Resettlement Initiative is well-aligned with the WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s goal in supporting a more resilient refugee resettlement sector that meets the needs of new arrivals, particularly now as many Afghan and Ukrainian refugees are settling in the U.S.,” said Lauren Crain, associate director at the WES Mariam Assefa Fund. “As a funder focused on improving economic mobility for refugees and immigrants, we’re excited that NASH will support universities in creating more welcoming campuses and increasing access to higher education. This will be key to ensuring longer-term economic and social inclusion for refugees.”

Across NASH’s network of public higher education systems, this work will bring fresh hope to many refugees struggling to find a safe and welcoming place in the U.S. Building on infrastructure within higher education and state and federal government, NASH is committed to supporting a growing number of its member institutions to become bedrocks for refugee support and resettlement. With this support from the WES Mariam Assefa Fund, NASH will continue to expand educational access and bring new opportunities for private sponsorship of refugees and their families at both the state and national levels.

“We want to thank the WES Mariam Assefa Fund for this amazing opportunity to create more inclusive, equitable opportunities for refugees entering the United States,” said Colleen Thouez, senior advisor at NASH and director of the RRI. “With their support, we will provide critical infrastructure and connect the higher education community with state and federal refugee programs – breaking down barriers and bolstering support for some of the most in need people within our communities.”

The arrival of over 100,000 Afghans and 100,000 Ukrainians in the United States within short periods of time presents an opportunity for institutions of higher education to collaborate and develop action plans to create welcoming communities and promote inclusivity, both to meet the moment and for the long term.

NASH began mobilizing in early October 2021 to forge a government and university coalition to address specific and urgent needs—primarily sponsorship and housing—of refugee families. Initially focused on 14 states designated by the U.S. Department of State to resettle Afghan arrivals, NASH created the RRI to increase the number of welcoming systems and campuses, work with key partners to build an efficient ecosystem among campuses, and build state and federal support for higher education systems to be able to respond quickly and then become established resettlement partners.

The work of the RRI is being carried out as part of NASH’s new national agenda, the Power of Systems. Through the lens of five imperatives – learning, talent, equity, investment, and systemness – public systems of higher education in the U.S. will work collaboratively to advance prosperity for the nation. They will do so by creating and embracing evidence-based practices that can be scaled across systems to move the dial on three key metrics: credential completion, student mobility, and student loan debt reduction.

“The Power of Systems is NASH’s bet that systems of public higher education can move the dial on student success by working together, and, as a result, advance prosperity for the nation,” said Nancy Zimpher, director of NASH’s Power of Systems and chancellor emeritus of The State University of New York. “The RRI is a strong example of the unique ability of public higher ed systems to leverage their expertise in meeting the unique needs of students no matter who they are or, in this case, where they came from.”

In addition to this new partnership with WES, member systems recently participated in Welcoming Week, a global movement started in 2012 during which communities come together to help bring businesses, communities, and neighborhoods together to create more welcoming and inclusive places to thrive and prosper. Last week, NASH/RRI announced a new partnership with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to provide a forum to share and scale proven practices to support displaced students in the state.

About World Education Services (WES) and the WES Mariam Assefa Fund

World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. For more than 45 years, WES has set the standard of excellence in the field of international academic credential evaluation. Its philanthropic arm, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund, supports catalytic leaders and organizations working to build inclusive economies and to ensure that immigrants and refugees can achieve their aspirations and thrive. For more information, please visit

About the National Association of System Heads

Founded in 1979, the National Association of System Heads (NASH) represents chief executives of the 65 public higher education systems in the United States. Member institutions work collaboratively to advance innovation and change in public systems of colleges and universities. To learn more about NASH and its national initiative, the Power of Systems, visit


Media Contact

David Belsky