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Refki: UAlbany Critical to Intellectual Growth

August 20, 2009

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Dina Refki, interim director of the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at UAlbany.

Dina Refki plans to promote policies and programs that are more culturally and linguistically sensitive to immigrant women. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

When Dina Refki was growing up in Cairo, Egypt, education was of utmost importance to her family.

"I had the privilege of growing up with feminist parents who had the same educational expectations for their male and female children," she said.

There was no question higher education was the path she needed to pursue, said Refki, who was recently named interim director of UAlbany's Center for Women in Government and Civil Society (CWGCS).

She pursued that path with great success. Refki studied English literature at Ain Shams University in Cairo, and then left home at 21 to discover UAlbany's highly ranked graduate program in Africana Studies. Named a Women and Public Policy Fellow in 2000, Refki went on to direct that same program. She earned a doctorate in Humanistic Studies from UAlbany.

"I credit my graduate education with awakening my feminist consciousness, pushing me to critically think about the world, and deepening my understanding of multiple perspectives," said Refki. She also credits UAlbany for grounding her in theory and strengthening her commitment to advocate on behalf of women.

Just as UAlbany put the world within reach for Refki, she brings to her new job a global view of the issues facing women and girls. "I am keenly aware of the challenges both women and men face when they uproot their lives and replant them in a new country," Refki said.

Iranian woman with sign

Refki is interested in the issues faced by women from around the world.

Since 2003 she has conducted research on immigrant women's issues, and advised government and civil society officials on making policies and programs more responsive to the needs of this population. Refki said gender disparities continue, often affecting immigrants, the poor, and those from non-majority cultures disproportionately. Moreover, women remain underrepresented in decision-making positions. For instance, women hold only 16.8 percent of the 535 seats in the U.S. Congress.

In addition to promoting policies and programs that are more culturally and linguistically sensitive to immigrant women, Refki's primary goals for the center include:

 Preserving the center's national prominence as a producer of cutting-edge research and policy analysis on women.

 Expanding women's leadership development to the pre-college, undergraduate, and executive levels.

 Promoting educational equity for girls in science and mathematics.

 Partnering with women in the Global South to advance gender equity.

Refki succeeds Judith Saidel, who stepped down to devote her time to scholarship and teaching.

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