Dina Birman is Associate Professor of Educational and Psychological Studies, and Director of the Ph.D. Program in Community Well-Being at the University of Miami, School of Education and Human Development. She has conducted research and written extensively about adaptation of adolescent, adult, and elderly refugees and immigrants, including those from the former Soviet Union, Central America, Somalia, and Vietnam. Based on studies conducted in Washington DC, Maryland, Chicago, and New Jersey, she has published on school and psychological adjustment of refugee adolescents, the role of parental involvement, differences in acculturation between adolescents and their parents, and effectiveness of community and school-based mental health interventions.
As a community psychologist, she explores these topics from an ecological perspective, studying the impact of characteristics of the schools and receiving communities. Dr. Birman received her B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and her Ph.D. in Clinical/Community Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park, focusing on immigrant acculturation and adaptation. From 1991-97 she worked as a program officer in the Refugee Mental Health Program at the National Institute of Mental Health and SAMHSA, providing consultation and technical assistance to the national refugee resettlement program administered by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. After completing two postdoctoral fellowships, Dr. Birman was on the faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (2003–13).
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Refugee students with interrupted or limited formal education (LFE) face particular difficulties in adjusting to U.S. schools. This study illustrates the difficulties faced by Somali Bantu refugee students who came to the United States with no schooling, and the pressures placed on teachers and other staff in a Chicago elementary school.