Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Robin Cooper

Second Advisor

Ismael Muvingi

Third Advisor

Jennifer Mincin


integration, peace studies, public policy, refugee, refugee resettlement, self-sufficiency, social research, South Florida


The United States resettles more refugees within its borders than any other country. The federal government and its partners measure success by determining if the refugee has achieved self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is achieved when a refugee becomes employed shortly after arrival. With a resettlement program that is almost forty years-old and unprecedented budget cuts, refugees themselves can aid in redefining the goals of the program. Using the theories of Human Needs and Social Identity to analyze the data, the aim of this study was to address the following questions: “What is the lived experience of refugees seeking self-sufficiency?” and “How do refugees resettled in South Florida define self-sufficiency?” The goal was to capture the refugee perspective through the voice of those who lived the experience and now work in resettlement. Participants included nine refugees who offered a unique understanding of the successes and failures of this approach. Utilizing the qualitative tradition of Transcendental Phenomenology, the research found that among refugees, self-sufficiency has varying meanings. These findings signal that programming should create multiple paths to self-sufficiency, which would allow refugees different avenues to preserve their prior career, thus part of their identity; feel that they contribute to their new home from inception; as well as begin the process of integration. The implication of this impacts program design and will contribute to the field of conflict resolution. The results provide insight on a population that is impacting American society, particularly at a time where the discussion on immigration and border security is prevalent.