History of the Institute

The International Institute of Minnesota is a 501(c)3 social service agency affiliated with the United Way and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).

Swedish immigrants

Swedish immigrants in 1919 – the year the International Institute was founded.

The Institute, founded in 1919 as a branch of the YWCA of Saint Paul, addressed unmet needs of immigrant women and their families by providing support services as well as English and citizenship classes. In 1931 Alice Sickels became the Institute’s first executive director. She expanded the services provided by the Institute, and in 1932, the Institute held its first Festival of Nations.

In 1938, the Institute became an independent agency. Since then, the organization has broadened programs and services to meet the contemporary needs of resettling refugees who often arrive without established family support in the area. From basic services of food and shelter to celebrations of culture, the Institute provides assistance for New Americans from the time of entry into Minnesota through full community integration. The Institute has resettled more than 24,000 refugees from almost every region in the world since 1979.

You can learn more about the history of the Institute by visiting International Institute of Minnesota (1920-1971).

This information was provided by The International Institute of Minnesota Records, General/Multiethnic Collection, Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota.