Fellow’s Corner: Settling In As an American Dream Fellow


Emily Hackerson

American Dream Fellow 2015 – 2016

There are days I lift my head from all our work here at the Cisneros Center and think: “I live in Arkansas!” and sit stunned for a moment. Having spent much of my life on the east coast or working internationally, Northwest Arkansas wasn’t a place I had imagined myself taking my next step after graduate school. Yet in just 2 short months, I feel deeply connected to our work in a way that makes Arkansas, suddenly and completely, the most reasonable place on earth to be.

Moving is something I’ve done often in my life, but entering Arkansas as a Cisneros Center Fellow feels distinctly different. I haven’t simply entered into a new place, but into a community of people from wildly different backgrounds grounded in a common cause. In two months I’ve sat with Marshallese clergyman, corporate executives, musicians, mayors and Latino business owners, and we’ve all talked about the same thing: how do we make Northwest Arkansas more responsive to the opportunities presented by increased diversity? It’s rare to find this convergence of opinion amongst even my closest friends, let alone across community members in a diverse southern state.

This is work that takes every bit of my brain; every day I’m planning, brainstorming, adjusting and building relationships. My daily actions as a Fellow always lead back to people, because immigration is the most human of acts and affects every aspect of our economic, cultural and civic selves. If this is what 2 months as a Cisneros Center Fellow looks like, I say: bring on 11 more!

Cisneros Center for New Americans


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