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UNI partners with IPTV to educate state about immigration/refugee issues

September 1, 2003

Mark Grey, director, UNI New Iowans program, (319) 273-3029
Mary Bracken, programming and outreach coordinator, IPTV, (800) 532-1290
Gwenne Culpepper, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa's 'New Iowans' program and Iowa Public Television (IPTV), Iowa's only statewide television network, have received a $5,000 grant from the Independent Television Service (ITVS) to promote a Public Broadcasting System miniseries, 'The New Americans.' Also participating in the project is the UNI Museum.

Scheduled to begin in April 2004, 'The New Americans' is a seven-hour series about the search for the American dream through the eyes of today's immigrants and refugees, including those from Nigeria, India, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the West Bank.

Mark Grey, director of the New Iowans program, said that through the collaboration, 'The New Americans' series will help Iowans learn more about this state's recent influx of immigrants and refugees.

Featured will be a series of activities. First will be publication of a companion handbook called 'The New Iowans' in October. The UNI Museum will present an exhibit, 'Welcoming New Iowans: A 200-Year Tradition,' in February 2004. During spring 2004, community forums will take place in Sioux City, Des Moines and Cedar Falls.

'This is a unique collaboration that will benefit all Iowans, primarily by educating them about the importance of these newcomers to the social and economic future of Iowa,' said Mary Bracken, programming and outreach coordinator of IPTV.

Established at UNI in 1999, the New Iowans program is the brainchild of Grey, who authored a book, 'Welcoming New Iowans,' to augment the program. He and co-author Anne Woodrick, UNI associate professor of anthropology, also have written a version of the book for Christian churches. Another is being written, in conjunction with UNI's Global Health Corps, for health providers. The version for businesses and employers is available on the Web at

In 'Welcoming New Iowans,' Grey explains immigration, discusses the needs of the newcomers and community members, and talks about ways to address cultural differences and challenges.

Iowa, for a variety of reasons, has become a settling site for immigrants and refugees. First, says Grey, is the state's meat packing industry, which provides ample employment opportunities. 'Of course, they may come for those specific jobs,' Grey says, 'but they slowly and surely filter out to other kinds of employment. This is important as it demonstrates how our economy is increasingly dependent on them.'

Immigration is, says Grey, a workforce and economic development issue.

'A lot of us have looked at demographics trends and we are concerned. Birth rates are down, and the workforce is aging rapidly. And then there's the painful reminder that 40 percent of the state's college graduates leave the state. We believe that immigrants can make up for part of the shortfall.'

IPTV provides quality alternative programming that educates, enlightens and entertains viewers across the state. Nearly one million viewers each week watch IPTV, whose stations include Channel 32 Waterloo; Channel 11, Des Moines; Channel 12, Iowa City; Channel 21, Fort Dodge; Channel 24, Mason City; Channel 27, Sioux City; Channel 32, Council Bluffs; Channel 36, Red Oak; Channel 36, Davenport.

ITVS's mission is to create and present independently produced programs that engage creative risks, advance issues and represent points of view not usually seen on public or commercial television.

For more information, contact Grey at (319) 273-3029.