Blue Heron Foundation is honored to collaborate with and support Cristiana Grigore’s Roma People’s Project at Columbia University. Cristiana, a research scholar and Blue Heron mentor, launched this project in partnership with the Center for Justice and the Heyman Center for Humanities in an effort to spotlight the Roma, a people who have been stereotyped and invisible for centuries.
Commonly but erroneously called Gypsies, the Roma have lived without a country and with minimal representation in mainstream society for over a thousand years. Cristiana hopes to expand Roma studies by examining topics such as identity and stigma, globalization, mobility and displacement.
There are approximately 12 million Roma in Europe, with over a million living in Romania, making it the country with one of the highest populations of Roma. Inspired by Cristiana’s work, Blue Heron decided to see how many of the foundation’s students are Roma. We were delighted to discover that approximately 10% of our students are Roma, compared to the 1% who has access to higher education in Romania and other parts of Europe.
Our Roma students have degrees in law, mathematics, pharmacy, engineering and the arts.
Cristiana started the process of interviewing some of our Roma students and alumni and has created a comprehensive questionnaire to learn about their stories and experiences. The first interview took place over the summer, with more interviews scheduled throughout the academic year.
We hope the collaboration between Blue Heron and the Roma People’s Project will be long-term and fruitful, and that it will lead not only to overcoming prejudices and stigma but also to closing the gap between Roma, who often lack opportunities to develop their full potential, and our society at large.