Victory Osezua works with refugee youth in Louisville.
Victory Osezua, far right, works with refugee youth in Louisville.

Having grown up in Nigeria, Victory Osezua, knows what it is like to get re-established in a foreign country. This understanding helped fuel her dissertation research on the experiences of refugee youth from East and Central Africa.

“I am an immigrant and so is my family, and I can relate to finding your place in another country,” Osezua said.

Osezua, who will graduate Dec. 17 with a PhD in Public Health Sciences with a specialization in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, learned through her volunteer work about high drop-out rates among refugee high school and college students. She also discovered there wasn’t much research on youth who have overcome extraordinary circumstances, like living through wars and fleeing their home countries. It was then that Osezua decided to dive into a research study on the meaning of well-being among local refugee youth from the African Great Lakes region.

Victory Osezua
Victory Osezua

“Physical, social and mental health, along with culture are embedded in well-being,” Osezua said. “Refugee youth are not only balancing the stress of learning a new language and seeking employment, but also dealing with factors like racism in a new country.”

She learned from surveys and interviews that although youth hope to find a safe place in the United States, the hardships they experience once they get here often re-open old wounds. Her analysis provided insight on how access to education, employment and health services are key to helping youth feel secure. Freedom to achieve goals and be happy was another important part of her findings.

Throughout her research, Osezua collaborated with the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Lead to Empower Initiative and the Louisville Metro Office for Globalization. This fall she was invited to present her research on refugee mental health wellness in African refugees, in commemoration of the Office for Globalization’s Welcoming Month 2021. She continues to speak to groups throughout Louisville and is using her research to advocate for refugee services.

“We need more collaboration throughout the community. One of my recommendations is to train those who serve refugees and immigrants to better understand the pre-immigration process,” she said.

When she graduates, she will receive the John Binford Memorial Award, which is presented to a doctorate degree graduate who excels in scholarship and has contributed to other areas within the discipline such as leadership, teaching or service.

Osezua earned a MPH from UofL in 2015 and credits the strength of the UofL community in helping bring her goal of achieving a PhD to fruition.

“Some people said no one really cares about research within the refugee and immigrant population, but all faculty were supportive of me – they are willing to support students in their dreams,” she said.