SUNY Chancellor Appoints Dina Refki to Head Immigration Institute

Dina Refki
Dina Refki

ALBANY, N.Y — Dina Refki, director of UAlbany’s Center for Women in Government and Civil Society (CWGCS), has been named executive director of SUNY’s new Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy.

Planning for the institute began in September with an advisory board that reflected a wide range of research, practice and policy expertise in immigration integration, said Refki, who was on that board. “The board will continue to steer the institute’s strategic vision and provide critical operational guidance to the institute,” which officially launched in January, she said.

Refki’s appointment as executive director was announced earlier this week by SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. Guillermo Martinez, the former director of policy development and legislative affairs for the New York State Assembly, was named deputy director and intergovernmental liaison.

The new institute received funding in the 2023 state budget and is housed at Rockefeller Institute of Government, SUNY’s public policy think tank. It will provide research for policy proposals to help immigrants transition to community life, education and the workforce.

“Tens of thousands of people settle in our state each year hoping to achieve more for themselves and their families, and the Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy shows us how to help,” King said. “Dr. Dina Refki and Guillermo A. Martinez are two incredibly experienced individuals who have worked closely on immigrant integration policy throughout their careers. Together with the advisory board, they will develop policies that ease the transition for future generations of immigrants.”

King thanked Gov. Kathy Hochul, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and the legislature for their support of the new institute.

“The Institute's goal is to advance the inclusion of foreign-born New Yorkers in the social, economic and civic fabric of their communities by generating knowledge about barriers facing foreign-born integration and by informing evidence-based policies that help remove these barriers,” Refki said. “I am honored to lead this research institute as it implements its bold agenda for mobilizing graduate students, researchers, and faculty across the SUNY system to narrow the gap between foreign-born New Yorkers and their native-born counterparts.”

To accomplish these goals, Refki said, the institute plans over the next three years to:

  • Identify gaps in knowledge and develop comprehensive applied research agenda. 
  • Provide support for initiatives led by immigrant integration researchers across SUNY and CUNY through a seed funding program. 
  • Provide a training ground for aspiring and emerging immigrant integration researchers and practitioners through a Fellows on Immigrant Integration Program. 
  • Provide an online data platform to understand integration contexts and outcomes and support data-informed policies. 
  • Pursue a full-scale implementation of the research agenda through formation and sponsorship of a consortium of researchers on immigrant integration. 
  • Convene an annual conference that focuses on the translation of evidence-based interventions into practice. 
  • Establish a Scholars in Resident program where scholars can spend a year at the Institute, dedicating effort to advancing the immigrant Integration agenda and the Institute’s mission. 
  • Create an online Policy Information portal which analyzes policy implications of research initiatives conducted by the Institute and by others. 

Cruz, who led the effort to create the Institute, said its primary goal is to help shape policies to “improve the social, economic and civic integration of our state's large and growing immigrant communities.” She called Refki “an intellectual powerhouse with vast experience in immigrant integration research and the empowerment of women” and thanked Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie and the Assembly Majority for their support. “It is an enormous step in continuing to ensure New York leads the nation in not just welcoming immigrants but working to ensure they fulfill their American Dream.”

Refki will continue to serve as director of CWGCS, a research and education center that is part of UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. CWGCS is focused on promoting and advancing gender equity through evidence-based approaches, raising awareness of existing inequities and opening doors for educational and economic opportunities for women.