Local ASU graduate campaigns for refugees, more education - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

Local ASU graduate campaigns for refugees, more education

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Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 12:49 pm

Ahwatukee resident Michael Feyrer subscribes to the philosophy that his life is like a pair of shoes — to be worn out in service.

The 54-year-old senior, who is one of the Arizona State University’s School of Letters and Sciences graduates for spring 2013, said while he has a lot of miles on his shoes, he’s not quite ready to hang them up after he receives his bachelor’s degree on May 11.

“Graduating from Arizona State means fulfilling a promise I made to myself decades ago toward academic achievement,” said Feyrer, a full-time single parent to two sons, an account manager for MicroAge in Tempe, and a youth soccer coach. “It affirms my commitment to never stop making the effort to learn, and subsequently it means increasing my ability to contribute back to my community.”

Feyrer’s presence has made an immediate impact both in and out of the classroom, said Frederick Corey, dean of University College and director of the School of Letters and Sciences.

“Michael Feyrer exemplifies the spirit of ASU as a New American University,” Corey said. “He fuses intellectual disciplines. He has the entrepreneurial energy and is making a difference in the world.”

As an interdisciplinary studies major with concentrations in human rights and African and African American studies, Feyrer wasted no time applying his classroom knowledge into real world knowledge.

In his first semester at ASU in 2011, Feyrer volunteered with Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Phoenix to mentor recently resettled refugees. His first assignment was to a newly arrived family of nine from Eritrea, a country in northeast Africa.

“Moving to a two-bedroom apartment in northwest Phoenix was, to say the least, culture shock for them. They were ill-prepared for American life but they were a joy to work with,” Feyrer said. “I learned from them as much as they learned from me. The experiences were humorous and poignant. Offering me a Red Baron frozen pizza that was still in its plastic and cooking in the microwave actually all gave us a good laugh after I explained why it was soggy. They didn’t know about the oven.”

Recognizing his contributions to the organization and his outstanding communication skills, Lutheran Social Services asked Feyrer in 2011 to assist in teaching cultural orientation, job search and technology skills to refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, at their Phoenix headquarters at 3443 N. Central Ave.

Subsequently he has worked in various capacities with The Lost Boys of Sudan Leadership Development Organization, Amnesty International, and ONE.org.

While his left-brain devoured the university academic experience, Feyrer’s right-brain creative side flourished as well.

He had taken a self-funded trip to Ghana in West Africa in 2007 to experience their 50th independence celebration and many of his images became the portfolio of original photographic/mixed media art, which Feyrer exhibited in 2011 and 2012 at the annual Phoenix Juneteenth Celebration, the Arizona African Festival and several “First Fridays.”

“The marriage of interdisciplinary academics and real world experience is priceless,” Feyrer observed. “The impact on me has been deeply rewarding. Through an integral approach of multiple disciplines I am more able to develop and implement dignified solutions for displaced persons.”

Feyrer said that after graduation he will lace up those academic shoes once more as he heads east next semester to Howard University in Washington D.C., to obtain his master’s degree. Ultimately, he says he’d like to teach and contribute to more effective refugee resettlement.

“Through earning an interdisciplinary degree at ASU I feel immeasurably more valuable to my family as well as to my society, and I am better prepared to contribute to the world I live in — making it for me, the world I want to live in.”

• Marshall Terrill is a freelance journalist and information specialist director at ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus. Reached him at marshall.terrill@asu.edu.

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