A Meso-Level Analysis of the Revitalization of the WUSC Student Refugee Program at St. Francis Xavier University





WUSC SRP, refugee resettlement, private sponsorship, meso-level analysis, community of practice, stewardship theory, Canada


Although millions of community members have come together in various ways to sponsor and resettle refugees for decades, scholars are just now beginning to study why people get involved and how they organize themselves to accomplish the practical, organizational, and emotional tasks community sponsorship requires. This article contributes to this emerging literature with a meso-level analysis of actions taken by one student-led local committee (LC) to revitalize the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program (SRP) nested at its university. Over 2,200 refugee youth have been sponsored through the WUSC SRP to study and settle in Canada since 1978, yet little is known about how campus LCs navigate their responsibilities or evaluate and sustain their program. Analysis of in-depth interviews with executive members was guided by and informs research on community sponsorship and theories of group action, community of practice, and stewardship.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Norine Verberg, St. Francis Xavier University

Norine Verberg is an Associate Professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. She can be reached at nverberg@stfx.ca.

Jordan MacDonald

Jordan MacDonald is an Economic Development Officer at Develop West Prince, Prince Edward Island. He can be reached at jm.jordan.macdonald@gmail.com. Jordon contributed to this paper as a Research Assistant while studying Capacity Development and Extension (MSc) at the University of Guelph.


Bennett, N. J., Whitty, T. S., Finkbeiner, E., Pittman, J., Bassett, H., Gelcich, S., & Allison, E. H. (2018). Environmental stewardship: A conceptual review and analytical framework. Environmental Management, 61, 597–614. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-017-0993-2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-017-0993-2

Bond, J. (2021). The power of politics: Exploring the true potential of community sponsorship programmes. In C. Dauvergne (Ed.), Research handbook on the law and politics of migration (pp. 155–170). Edward Edgar Publishing. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4337/9781789902266.00021

Bond, J., & Kwadrans, A. (2019). Resettling refugees through community sponsorship: A revolutionary operational approach built on traditional legal infrastructure. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 35(2), 87–109. https://doi.org/10.7202/1064822ar DOI: https://doi.org/10.7202/1064822ar

Cameron, G. (2020). Reluctant partnership: A political history of private sponsorship in Canada. In S. Labman & J. Cameron (Eds.), Strangers to neighbours: Refugee sponsorship in context (pp. 19–41). McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv176ktqs.6

Chavez, C. (2008). Conceptualizing from the inside: Advantages, complications, and demands on insider positionality. The Qualitative Report, 3(3), 474–494. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2008.1589 DOI: https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2008.1589

Cukier, W., & Jackson, S. (2018). Social innovation and university-driven refugee resettlement. Peace Review, 30(2), 223–230. https://doi.org/10.1080/10402659.2018.1458955 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10402659.2018.1458955

Enns, T., Good Gingrich, L., & Perez, L. (2020). Religious heritage, institutionalized ethos, and synergies: The Mennonite Central Committee and Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. In S. Labman& J. Cameron (Eds.), Strangers to neighbours: Refugee sponsorship in context (pp. 95–111). McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv176ktqs.10

Fine, G. A. (1979). Small groups and culture creation: The idioculture of little league baseball teams. American Sociological Review, 44(5), 733–745. https://doi.org/10.2307/2094525 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2094525

Fine, G. A. (2010). The sociology of the local: Action and its publics. Sociological Theory, 28(4), 355–376. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9558.2010.01380.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9558.2010.01380.x

Fine, G. A. (2019). The meso-world: Tiny publics and political action. Qualitative Sociology Review, 15(2), 10–24. https://doi.org/10.18778/1733-8077.15.2.02 DOI: https://doi.org/10.18778/1733-8077.15.2.02

Heiskanen, E., Jalas, M., Rinkinen, J., & Tainio, P. (2015). The local community as a “low-carbon lab”: Promises and perils. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 14, 149–164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2014.08.001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2014.08.001

Hernandez, M. (2008). Promoting stewardship behavior in organizations: A leadership model. Journal of Business Ethics, 80, 121–128. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9440-2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9440-2

Hyndman, J., Reynolds, J., Yousuf, B., Purkey, A., Demoz, D., & Sherrell, K. (2021). Sustaining the private sponsorship of resettled refugees in Canada. Frontiers in Human Dynamics, 3, Article 625358. https://doi.org/10.3389/fhumd.2021.625358 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fhumd.2021.625358

Jackson, W., & Verberg, N. (2007). Methods: Doing social research. Pearson Prentice-Hall.

Kitamura, K., Nakagawa, C., & Sato, T. (2018). Formation of a community of practice in the watershed scale, with integrated local environmental knowledge. Sustainability, 10(2), Article 404. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020404 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020404

Kyriakides, C., McLuhan, A., Anderson, K., & Bajjali, L. (2020). Transactions of worth in refugee–host relations. In S. Labman & J. Cameron (Eds.), Strangers to neighbours: Refugee sponsorship in context (pp. 198–211). McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv176ktqs.15

Labman, S. (2016). Private sponsorship: Complementary or conflicting interests? Refuge: Canada’s Journal of Refugees, 32(2), 67–80. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40266 DOI: https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40266

Labman, S., & Pearlman, M. (2018). Crossing law’s border: Canada’s refugee resettlement program. UBC Press.

Lange, K. (2020). Mobilization of the legal community to support PSR applications through the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program. In S. Labman & J. Cameron (Eds.), Strangers to neighbours: Refugee sponsorship in context (pp. 212–226). McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv176ktqs.16

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511815355

Macklin, A., Barber, K., Goldring, L., Hyndman, J., & Korteweg, A. (2018). A preliminary investigation into private refugee sponsors. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 50(2), 35–58. http://doi.org/10.1353/ces.2018.0014 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/ces.2018.0014

Martin, C. J., & Upham, P. (2015). Grassroots social innovation and the mobilisation of values in collaborative consumption: A conceptual model. Journal of Cleaner Production, 34, 204–213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.04.062 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.04.062

Martiskainen, M. (2017). The role of community leadership in the development of grassroots innovations. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 22, 78–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2016.05.002 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2016.05.002

McCracken, G. (1988). The long interview. Sage Publications. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412986229

McKee, C., Lavell, L., Manks, M., & Korn, A. (2019). Fostering better integration through youth-led refugee sponsorship. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 35(2), 74–85. https://doi.org/10.7202/1064821ar DOI: https://doi.org/10.7202/1064821ar

McNally, R. (2020). The Blended Visa Office-Referral Program: Perspectives and experiences from rural Nova Scotia. In S. Labman & J. Cameron (Eds.), Strangers to neighbours: Refugee sponsorship in context (pp. 134–151). McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv176ktqs.12

Miles, M. B., Huberman, M., & Saldana, J. (2020). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (4th ed.). Sage Publications..

Molloy, M. J., Duschinsky, P., Jensen, K. F., & Shalka, R. J. (2017). Running on empty: Canada and the Indochinese refugees, 1975–1980. McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9780773550636

Morris, S., Juma, K., Terretta, M., & Lenard, P. T. (2022). Ordinary people, extraordinary actions: Refuge through activism at Ottawa’s St. Joe’s parish. University of Ottawa Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv2mcbc66

Pearlman, M. (2020). Operation Ezra: A new way forward. In S. Labman & J. Cameron (Eds.), Strangers to neighbours: Refugee sponsorship in context (pp. 112–133). McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv176ktqs.11

Peterson, G. (2010). “Education changes the world”: The World University Service of Canada Student Refugee Program. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 27(2), 111–121. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.34728 DOI: https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.34728

Phillimore, J., Reyes-Soto, M., D’Avino, G., & Nicholls, N. (2022). “I have felt so much joy”: The role of emotions in community sponsorship of refugees. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 33, 386–396. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-021-00349-3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-021-00349-3

Plasterer, R. (2010). Investigating integration: The geographies of the WUSC Student Refugee Program at the University of British Columbia. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 27(1), 59–74. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.34349 DOI: https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.34349

Pyrko, I., Dörfler, V., & Eden, C. (2017). Thinking together: What makes communities of practice work? Human Relations, 70(4), 389–409. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726716661040 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726716661040

Refugee Sponsorship Training Program. (n.d.). The Private Sponsorship of Refugee (PSR) Program. https://www.rstp.ca/en/refugee-sponsorship/the-private-sponsorship-of-refugees-program/

Ritchie, G. (2018). Civil society, the state, and private sponsorship: The political economy of refugee resettlement. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 37(6), 663–675. https://doi.org/10.1080/02601370.2018.1513429 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02601370.2018.1513429

Shankar, S., O’Brien, H. L., How, E., Lu, Y., Mabi, M., & Rose, C. (2016). The role of information in the settlement experiences of refugee students. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 53(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1002/pra2.2016.14505301141 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/pra2.2016.14505301141

Seyfang, G., & Smith, A. (2007). Grassroots innovations for sustainable development: Towards a new research and policy agenda, Environmental Politics, 16(4), 584–603. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644010701419121 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09644010701419121

Statistics Canada. (2016). Census profile: Antigonish, Nova Scotia. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=POPC&Code1=0019&Geo2=PR&Code2=12&SearchText=Antigonish&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&GeoLevel=PR&GeoCode=0019&TABID=1&type=0

Verberg, N., & Khoury, J. (2017). Team Syria: The ripple effect of university–community partnerships. Canadian Diversity, 14(3), 29–30. https://acs-metropolis.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/canadiandiversity-vol14-no3-2017-qtw2f.pdf

Vergragt, P., Akenjii, L., & Dewick, P. (2014). Sustainable production, consumption, and livelihoods: Global and regional research perspectives. Journal of Cleaner Production, 63, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.09.028 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.09.028

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511803932

Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. https://www.ohr.wisc.edu/cop/articles/communities_practice_intro_wenger.pdf

West, S., Haider, L. J., Masterson, V., Enqvist, J. P., Svedin, U., & Tengö, M. (2018). Stewardship, care, and relational values. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 35, 30–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2018.10.008 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2018.10.008

Wilkinson, S., & Kitzinger, C. (2013). Representing our own experience: Issues in “insider” research. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37(2), 251–255. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684313483111 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684313483111

Wong, A. H. C. (2013). An exploratory study of resilience in refugee post-secondary students [Doctoral dissertation, University of Alberta]. https://doi.org/10.7939/R3BZ61H3G

World University Service of Canada (WUSC). (n.d.). Student Refugee Program. https://srp.wusc.ca



How to Cite

Verberg, N., & MacDonald, J. (2023). A Meso-Level Analysis of the Revitalization of the WUSC Student Refugee Program at St. Francis Xavier University. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 39(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40830

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.