Article Reveals "Invisible" Immigrants: Women Who Lose Status in the U.S.
ON THE DESK OF Delia Nüesch-Olver, associate professor of global and urban mission, are two halves of a blue geode lined with white rings and crystals. In her classes at Seattle Pacific University, Nüesch-Olver uses the geode as a metaphor for culture: "You can cut it to the core, and it's still there, not just painted on the outside."
In her work as a social scientist helping undervalued people who are experiencing culture shock, Nüesch-Olver explores culture at its core. "I set out to find previously hidden slices of life," she says. Her journal article, "Thank You for Asking: The Experiences of Latina Immigrant Professional Women," appears in the current issue of Social Work and Christianity. The article is based on an ethnographic study of women who relocated to this country when their husbands' jobs required a transfer.
All of these professional women, says Nüesch-Olver, felt the culture shock more than their husbands, who did not lose their jobs when they moved to the United States. When couples were interviewed together, they spoke positively about the transfers. But when the wives shared their experiences with Nüesch-Olver alone, each spoke of a loss of identity, change of status and loneliness from lack of support systems.
In her country of origin, one woman was vice minister of budget. She told Nüesch-Olver, "I was once the one who traveled. Now I clean airport restrooms for those who travel. I never saw those [maintenance people] before. Now I am invisible."
Nüesch-Olver says, "We need to respond to these women. We can volunteer as tutors, invite them for coffee, help them work toward another degree at SPU." The title of Nüesch-Olver's journal article, she says, came from the women themselves. "Over and over, they said to me, ‘Thank you for asking about my life. I no longer feel invisible.'"
Nüesch-Olver will discuss her article in an international online chat session arranged by the North American Association of Christians in Social Work on January 27, 2003, from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). As Nüesch-Olver says, "They want to enhance the educational benefit of their journal articles." For more information, visit www.nacsw.org.
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