Great Plains Research looks at new immigrants in the Great Plains

Released on 10/20/2004, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., October 20th, 2004 —

How do new immigrants meet the challenges of surviving in the Great Plains? That question and more like it are answered in the fall issue of Great Plains Research, published by the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Guest editors John DeFrain, Rochelle Dalla, Douglas Abbott and Julie Johnson, all Department of Family and Consumer Sciences faculty at UNL, chose research articles that identify and document the strengths of and challenges to new immigrants who have come to the Great Plains in the past 30 years.

"When we began to conceptualize this issue on new immigrants to the Heartland of America, we knew we wanted to have a strengths-based orientation," DeFrain said. "We believe the media, in general, have done a dismal job of portraying families in our country, focusing on why families fail, rather than on how families succeed."

Dalla said this issue is particularly significant for expanding the knowledge base in relation to newcomers in the Great Plains, including individual and collective experiences. "By providing a balanced portrayal of new immigrants, we can define issues of relevance for policy formation and provide a broader understanding of populations of new immigrants for educational, service and outreach efforts," she said.

Auburn University associate professor John Gaber and his colleagues analyzed refugee resettlement patterns and the potential economic benefits to Great Plains cities. Using Lincoln as a case study, the investigators focused on a multi-ethnic economic enclave that has developed along North 27th Street in the city of 235,000. They list the economic benefits to the community including the revitalization of an older and dying retail corridor.

Two groups of researchers look at the impact of population increase on small towns in Nebraska from the viewpoint of both the longtime and newly arrived residents. UNL architecture professor James Potter and his colleagues examined the effects of a population increase after the construction of a new beef packing plant in Schuyler. Dalla and her team of family and consumer sciences faculty from UNL (including those housed on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus) and Michigan State University looked at three rural Nebraska meatpacking communities. They document the perceptions of community change, communitywide benefits of a new Latino population, and strategies for strengthening multi-ethnic rural communities.

Other researchers studied the key concerns of new immigrants and human-service providers, the adaptation of new immigrants to gender equality and feminism, the factors identifying a healthy social development among Latino youth, and the ways the media view new immigrants. Two articles also look at individual immigrants and their families as they adapt to the challenge of learning a new language and customs.

"We hear over and over the countless challenges faced by immigrants," DeFrain said. "In this issue we wanted to create a more balanced portrait of our new friends and neighbors."

Great Plains Research can be purchased from the Center for Great Plains Studies at (402) 472-3082.

CONTACTS: John DeFrain, Professor, Family & Consumer Sciences, (402) 472-1659
Rochelle Dalla, Assoc. Professor, Family & Consumer Sciences, (402) 554-2356
Linda Ratcliffe, Publications Specialist, Great Plains Studies, (402) 472-3965