A Backpack to Help Refugees

‘Face to Face’ Subject Discusses Humanitarian Work

Dheera Dusanapudi talks with Chancellor Gary S. May
UC Davis student Dheera Dusanapudi sat down Chancellor Gary S. May for “Face to Face With Chancellor May.” (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

This month’s guest on Face to Face With Chancellor May is a student who came to UC Davis to help refugees preserve their access to higher education — all while completing her own studies.

Purple graphic with text "Face to Face with Chancellor May"

Dheera Dusanapudi is a junior studying international relations and religious studies, and works as the student lead for the Article 26 Backpack, a program that offers refugees face-to-face counseling and a cloud storage platform to preserve important records like transcripts and diplomas.

“All of these really small, important things end up really hindering their access to higher education in the future [if they are lost],” she said, noting that grabbing a diploma may not be top of mind for a student fleeing an unsafe country.

She sat down with May to discuss her work, her studies, and the role the Article 26 Backpack played in her decision to join UC Davis.

“The program offers this really extraordinary experience to normal, undergraduate students like me — and like a lot of my classmates — to really get involved in hands-on, humanitarian work in a way that you don’t really get with a lot of other programs,” Dusanapudi said.

The Article 26 Backpack is named for Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims everyone’s right to an education. The project is led by Keith David Watenpaugh, a professor and director of Human Rights Studies.

Human rights have been a major focus for Dusanapudi, including a quarter when she had three back-to-back classes in that subject.

“Human rights studies has really been a source of inspiration for me,” she told May. “And I’ve met some of my most amazing classmates from there as well.”

Her humanitarian work has also extended beyond UC Davis, including a summer internship with USA for UNHCR, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Watch the above video for her full conversation with May, including their discussion about the best study spot on campus (an answer May said he’d never heard before) and May’s advice for people engaging in weighty discussions.

Face to Face is also available as an audio-only podcast.

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Cody Kitaura is the editor of Dateline UC Davis and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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