The College of Arts and Science launches Interdisciplinary Migration Studies Institute
Chels Fabian
School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

The College of Arts and Science recently launched the Interdisciplinary Migration Studies Institute (IMSI). The new research group promises to cultivate new knowledge that benefits scholars and members of the local community.

IMSI was created to add missing perspectives to the growing and urgent scholarly and public conversation on migration. While much of this conversation has been through scientific and policy lenses, IMSI will bring new insights with a humanities-forward focus — highlighting the human face of migration studies.

One of these humanities-forward focus areas is immigrant food cultures. Because of the precarity common in their positions, immigrants often lack access to healthy and culturally valued foods. The institute's faculty hopes to pilot a community-based participatory research project examining immigrant food cultures from the standpoints of community agriculture, small-scale farming and food-based entrepreneurship. 

While inspiring and initiating new research, IMSI will also enhance the ongoing work of scholars such as Michelangelo Landgrave, assistant professor at the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs and member of IMSI’s steering committee.

“I am most excited about interacting with other migration scholars,” says Landgrave about IMSI’s launch. “It’s easy to forget that MU is a collection of scholars from different fields. Something like IMSI helps remind me that we have people working on this important topic across campus.”

The institute will also have an impact on Mizzou’s student community. Through a partnership with the Office of Service Learning,  IMSI offers an undergraduate course, “Engaging Missouri Immigrant Communities,” that provides hands-on career experience through community-engaged, intercultural learning — preparing a new cohort of scholars to engage in the type of research central to the institute’s work. 

 “We practice ‘participatory’ research when we work with local populations,” says Martha Kelly, associate professor of Russian and IMSI’s director. “This means that we let the communities we seek to support guide our research.”

Demonstrating that she and her colleagues pursue meaningful progress not just for their own sakes, Kelly explains the institute’s research will benefit the communities they examine.  

“At IMSI, we walk alongside communities by their invitation,” Kelly says. “And this ‘walking alongside,’ this mutual conversation, positions us to make a practical difference.”