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Graduate student Alexandra Van Doren (CWL) receives U of I Graduate Student Leadership Award

4/30/2017  8:00 am

Alexandra Van Doren, a doctoral student in Comparative and World Literatures, is the recipient of the Graduate Student Leadership Award from the U of I Graduate College.

During the Syrian refugee crisis of 2015, Alexandra realized there was no refugee welcome center in Champaign or Urbana, and decided to take action. In January of 2016 she founded the non-profit Three Spinners Inc. with the help of fellow CWL graduate student Meagan Smith and her husband, Tim King.

The nonprofit organization collects clothing donations and transports them to Indianapolis to meet its local refugee needs in tandem with Catholic Charities, and aids refugee home furnishing as well as employment needs in Champaign-Urbana. Three Spinners is also working with other local organizations to establish Champaign-Urbana as a refugee resettlement center.

Alexandra’s research focuses on genocide and human rights, particularly the Holocaust. When she became aware of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, she was “shaken to my core,” she said. “I knew that I needed to take action in a more direct way than my previous volunteer efforts.”

One of her recommenders noted: “In her tenure as a graduate student at the university, Alexandra has shown immense commitment and leadership to her department as well as to core international human rights issues. She is undoubtedly an asset to the university, breathing life into its stated mission to ‘transform lives and serve society.’”