Bouras returns to community that inspired her

Isabel Sperry

Bouras in South Africa, one of 31 countires on 5 continents that she has visited in the past decade
Photo: Zoe Bouras via Facebook

 

Class of 2018 standout Zoe Boraus has made her way back to Bloomington-Normal. The IWU grad is now working as an adjunct Political Science professor, alongside her work as the communications and development coordinator at The Immigration Project in Bloomington-Normal. 

The Immigration Project is a not-for-profit organization that works to provide immigrants with accurate information and legal advice. They specialize in education regarding immigration law and provide services to central and southern Illinois. 

  Bouras is herself an immigrant, and was drawn to her work at The Immigration Project because of her own experience with the immigration system in the United States. 

Bouras was born in England, where she lived until she was 10 years old. Moving to the United States enlightened her to the unique struggles immigrants in this country face, although she acknowledges that her experience differs from the experiences of many others. 

“My immigration experience isn’t really what a lot of people think of when they think about immigration,” Bouras said, “I am very lucky as an immigrant here, I am fully documented, I speak with an American accent, I don’t often experience anti-immigrant discrimination, and I came to a welcoming environment and a family that loved me.  Unfortunately, the same things cannot be said for many of our immigrant neighbors in Illinois.” 

Her interest in Immigration law and The Immigration Project did not only stem from her personal experience.She found inspiration at  a talk she attended at IWU by Dr Kathleen O’Gorman. O’Gorman is an outspoken advocate of immigrant issues, working as a volunteer translator at the US- Mexico border. Her work inspired Bouras, and she helped her get involved with The Immigration Project through AmeriCORPS VISTA. 

“We can be better, but right now, we, our government, in our name, and with the complicity of our silence—is separating children from their families, putting them in cages, and torturing them psychologically,” O’Gorman previously told The Argus. 

Bouras heard about Dr O’Gorman’s talk on Facebook and decided to drive to Bloomington-Normal with her mom to attend, “I had just come back from my master’s degree in England and I was in the area, so me and my mom went to the talk, and Kathleen O’Gorman told about her experiences. The Immigration Project staff were there and they were answering questions, so I went up to the person in charge of The Immigration Project and was like ‘hi I have a master’s degree in Latin American Studies is there any opportunity to volunteer?’ and then she told me about a job opening I should apply for.” 

Bouras works in development for The Immigration Project, which means that she plans press events, organizes publications and establishes fundraising relationships with donors. She says the most rewarding part of the job is “getting to share all of the good work that is being done.” 

Image courtesy of Zoe Bouras

Alongside her work with The Immigration Project, Bouras also works at Illinois Wesleyan University as an adjunct Political Science Professor. 

“She was a senior when I was a freshman, as a poli-sci major, I really looked up to her,” senior Samira Kassem said.

Both Kassem and Bouras studied abroad during their respective junior years at Oxford through the Pembroke program and Bouras influenced Kassem’s eventual decision to apply. The Pembroke program is a one year, academically rigorous study abroad opportunity at Oxford’s Pembroke College. The program is open to students from a select set of American universities, including Illinois Wesleyan.  

“She really pushed me to apply for Oxford, and she is a big reason that I ended up going,” Kassem said. 

Bouras said that it can be a little weird being back on campus, this time in a faculty role. She still struggles to call her once professors now colleagues by their first names, and is now  teaching some of the classes she took as a first year student, but being a political science professor in an election year has been a new and rewarding experience. She helped students notarize their ballots, explained the ins and outs of impeachment and has enjoyed learning how to best support students through the transition into college. 

Bouras’s work both at The Immigration Project, and on IWU’s campus illustrate her desire to impact change on an individual level. As an immigrant and advocate, she is drawn to help those that the system fails to educate and support, and as a professor she works to ensure her students succeed in and out of the classroom.