Rowland School of Business

South Sudan Native, Business Alum Recounts His Refugee Story at Center for Media Innovation

Friday, February 24, 2017

Pictured is Panther Bior, Sudanese refugee and Point Park School of Business alumnus. | Photo by Gracey Evans

“I know what it is to be a refugee,” said School of Business international alumnus Panther Garang Bior at Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation Feb. 21.

Bior was invited to the CMI to discuss his harrowing experience as a refugee from South Sudan, the world’s newest nation currently in the trenches of a civil war and devastating famine.

"I love that Point Park's professors and alumni are willing to take time to discuss important matters with students and our community."

-- Maggie McCauley, senior broadcasting and PR/Advertising double major 


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"It's important we put aside political ideology and talk to each other human being to human being."

-- Helena Knörr, Ph.D., associate professor of organizational leadership


He also shared his disagreement with the executive order President Trump issued last month, which banned immigrants from seven countries, including South Sudan, from entering the United States.

“This is not the right path. I came today to speak up for people who are in fear. I worry about other people. I want to be a voice for the voiceless,” Bior said. "Put yourself into a refugee's shoes and envision how you would feel if this was happening to you and your family."

Bior also talked about the importance of leaders showing compassion, empathy and tolerance. “We need to coexist and support each other in this world. We are all one people,” he said.

Joining Bior in the discussion at the CMI was Helena Knörr, Ph.D., Point Park associate professor of organizational leadership.

“I’m here to support Panther and to share part of my life experiences. I am an immigrant. I was born in Mozambique, a third-world country,” she said. “Being a refugee is not a luxury. It is driven by survival. Complex problems like immigration cannot be solved with a simple solution."

"Panther Bior and Dr. Helena Knörr both shed light on a topic relevant to our country and brought issues to the surface that many people are being impacted by. It was so insightful and interesting to hear their opinions," said Maggie McCauley, a senior broadcast reporting and public relations and advertising double major from Redbank Valley High School in New Bethlehem, Pa.

Before immigrating to the United States, Knörr also lived in Spain and Portugal. In 2006, she founded the Master of Arts in leadership at Point Park, a graduate program that helps develop students as leaders and change agents in their communities.

"True education happens when you put your knowledge into action and work to change what needs to be changed," Knörr explained. “Panther is a genuine leader who doesn’t feed the ego, but rather the soul."

Bior's Path to Point Park

In 2008, Bior earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting and in 2012, a Master of Arts in organizational leadership, both from Point Park.

His journey to Point Park is a remarkable one. Bior is one of the 27,000 internationally known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan" and was featured in the 2006 National Geographic award-winning documentary, God Grew Tired of Us, produced by Brad Pitt and narrated by Nicole Kidman.

Pictured is Sudanese refugee and School of Business alumnus Panther Bior with Helena Knorr, Ph.D., associate professor of organizational leadership at Point Park. | Photo by Gracey Evans
Panther Bior and Helena Knörr, Ph.D.

When Bior was a boy, his village was attacked by the government. He escaped to the jungle and travelled barefoot for five years, seeking refuge from genocide, disease and starvation until he reached a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. In 2001, he was granted asylum by the United States and began his life in Pittsburgh

Today, Bior is an accounting analyst for FHLBank Pittsburgh, part of the Federal Home Loan Bank System, which was established by U.S. Congress in 1932 as a source of funding for housing, jobs and growth in all economic cycles. Prior to this position, he was an accounting analyst for four and a half years at The Bank of New York Mellon in Pittsburgh.

Bior lives in Pittsburgh’s Whitehall Borough with his wife, Nyanthiec Awell, and children Garang Panther, 8; Yar Panther, 6; and Bior Panther, 3. He recently finished writing a book about his life titled, “There Was Hope” and is in the process of securing a publisher.

"I love that Point Park's professors and alumni are willing to take time to discuss important matters with students and our community," McCauley said.

Bior concluded his presentation with a quote from Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Knörr added: "We have the capacity to bring our shared values together. That's what created the United States of America. It's important we put aside political ideology and talk to each other human being to human being."

Photos by Gracey Evans, sophomore photojournalism major

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