Promoting social work education
U.S. schools strengthen global partnerships
By Paul R. Pace, News staff
More than 200 million Chinese workers migrated from rural
plantations to urban labor markets between 2000 and 2010, and the surge in
economic growth has resulted in hardships for millions of people in the
The Chinese government is depending on the social work
profession to address these increasing social challenges by bolstering the
country’s number of social workers from 200,000 to between 2 million and 3
million by 2020.
Many U.S. schools of social work, through their global
education efforts, are collaborating with Chinese leaders and educators to
strengthen the country’s social work education and practice capacity. At the
same time, U.S. educators say the shared opportunity allows new insight into
improving social work efforts in the U.S.
Silver School of Social Work
One example is the Silver School of Social Work at New York
University in New York City.
Lynn Videka, dean of the Silver School of Social Work, said
NYU hosts major initiatives to transform the university into a global network.
One of its latest projects is partnering with the School of
Social Development at East China Normal University to create an institute that
will train and study social science and social work research that supports
social policy, practice and prominent academic programs that are locally and
An essential mission of the institute is to address the
poverty and inequality issues experienced in China and the U.S.
“I am taking the approach of building programs that have a
strong core rooted in the global network university infrastructure of New York
University,” Videka said.
“Individual faculty research projects and initiatives can be
the ‘flowers’ on the branches that emanate from the strong program roots,” she
said, noting that NYU is in the process of building a portal campus in
Videka said social work students with an interest in
international social work do not particularly need to leave the U.S. to be part
of a group that helps other cultures.
With student field placements, NYU works with the United
Nations and other international organizations in the area to promote social
work involvement with diverse cultures in the U.S., she said.
University of Pennsylvania
Another U.S.-China collaboration is taking place at the
University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, or SP2.
According to the school, global inquiry, academic
partnerships, collaborative research endeavors and international immersion
opportunities for students is SP2’s way of educating future leaders of social
change and addressing complex social problems around the world.
Something new taking place at the school is a partnership with
Peking University in Beijing to build an interdisciplinary educational effort
between the two schools. The collaboration fits with furthering SP2’s Global
“It’s important we prepare our students to live and work in a
global society and promote global awareness,” said Mary Mazzola, associate dean
of enrollment management and global outreach at SP2. “We want our students, who
are future leaders of social change, to learn how to impact change in various
cultural and social contexts.”
Mazzola said one of the challenges facing social work
education in China is the lack of an interdisciplinary focus on health and
mental health social work. For example, she said China has few social workers
working in hospital settings.
SP2 teamed up with faculty at Peking University as well as
several universities in Hong Kong to host the China-U.S. Health and Mental
Health Social Work Conference last November. Penn faculty members participated
in the event, representing experts in the fields of social work, bioethics,
psychiatry, internal medicine and health economics.
“We had some of our graduates who are hospital social workers
present on medical social work in the U.S.,” Mazzola said. “It was pretty
Mazzola said the meeting was a successful inaugural step
toward building the Penn-Peking university partnership.
The conference promoted the knowledge exchange among
practitioners, faculty, and researchers on practicing social work in health and
mental health care settings in mainland China, Hong Kong and the U.S.
From this collaboration, Mazzola said SP2 plans to host future
collaborations to teach and train social work educators and practitioners using
an interdisciplinary approach.
She said the effort is true partnership for both schools to
exchange ideas and build their knowledge base. “It’s a two-way street because
we all learn from each other,” Mazzola said.
“It’s important to promote social work education in other
countries,” she added. “Globalization has altered the landscape of the world.
There are global complex social problems. If we promote social work education,
we can work together to solve the complex problems of the world.”
Seven schools of social work are participating in the
China-U.S. Collaborative on Master of Social Work Education that is sponsored
by the Council on Social Work Education’s Katherine A. Kendall Institute, the
China Association of Social Work Education and the International Association of
Schools of Social Work. The effort aims to foster the development of graduate
social work education programs in mainland China.
One of the U.S. participants is the School of Social Work at
the University of Southern California.
Suh Chen Hsiao, a clinical assistant professor at the USC
School of Social Work, and Dan Hester, director of international programs at
the school, are excited about the program that is pairing the seven U.S.
schools of social work or social service with seven similar schools in China.
USC is collaborating with Nanjing University School of Social Behavioral
Science Center, MSW Center.
The 14 schools held a conference in December 2012 in Beijing
and Nanjing, where educators from both countries exchanged goals and drafted
plans on future collaboration efforts over the next five years.
Suh Chen Hsiao said USC has already invited a faculty member
from Nanjing to be a visiting scholar, and a Nanjing doctoral student will
visit for the fall semester. Presentation ideas for future conferences are
being planned as well.
Hester said the Chinese government, through its Ministries of
Civil Affairs and Education, has made a commitment to resources to grow social
work in China.
“They recognize the importance of strengthening social work
education at the master’s level,” Hester said.
“To share our experiences not only benefits us, but it also
benefits our own students and faculty,” he added. “There is much to learn from
The other U.S. schools involved in China-U.S. MSW
collaborative are the University of Houston, Arizona State University, New
York’s Fordham University, the University of Alabama, the University of
Chicago, and Case Western Reserve in Ohio.
Education in the Philippines
Schools of social work have a rich history of helping other
countries develop and expand their social work education efforts.
One school recently celebrated the end of a successful social
work master’s level education partnership in the Philippines.
The Catholic University of America’s National Catholic School
of Social Service partnered with three Filipino universities and two
nongovernmental organizations to conduct a Master of Teaching in Social Work
program in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, Philippines.
Frederick Ahearn is a professor and co-chairman of the NCSSS
Center for International Development. He said the program placed attention on
teaching social development as a means of helping the more than 1 million
displaced residents in the area due to the 40-plus year of conflict between the
Muslim majority and the government.
NCSSS faculty volunteered their vacation time to travel to the
Philippines to teach 10 courses to each class of students over six years. The
program completed its memorandum of understanding in 2012 and celebrated by
having 100 students graduate from the program.
These students typically already worked for a nongovernmental
organization or a government agency and they had to agree to continue to work
in conflicted areas for two years upon graduation, Ahearn said.
The students gained skills in social planning, peacemaking and
conflict resolution and management of social work programs as well as skills in
obtaining grants and evaluating programs.
Ahearn said the NCSSS Master in Social Work Education effort
was similar to a program that took place earlier in Chile.
Like other universities that promote global education and
understanding, NCSSS offers students who are eager to partner with
international agencies an opportunity to create social work experiences in not
only the Philippines but also in other countries through its International
Program of Associates.
Ahearn said promoting social work education in other countries
is important because the experience allows the opportunity for students to
understand a country’s differences and similarities.
“As social workers, we have the value of helping others,” he
said. “That may be here or in Nicaragua, Kenya or the Philippines.”
Social Work in
A former republic of the Soviet Union, Armenia is an emerging
democracy that has benefited from schools of social work in the U.S.
Nancy Humphreys, a former NASW president, is a professor of
policy practice and director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political
Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. She is
especially proud of the school’s extended history in helping promote social
work education in Armenia, a country that suffered through great political and
environmental challenges after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
An American social worker, a son of refugees who fled the
Armenian genocide, contacted the University of Connecticut School of Social
Work to propose a joint effort with the Yerevan State University to develop a
western style of social work in the country. From this effort, YSU faculty
developed social work education and training programs to help people help
others caught in the dramatic transition that followed independence, Humphreys
UConn students continue to spend their spring breaks working
in Armenia on projects that support social work development in the country.
“We have a lot to offer and we have a lot to learn,” Humphreys
said of social work education efforts in other countries. “I have learned so
much from other cultures. It’s important to note that young (social work
students) are very eager to enter our program. They want an international
experience as much as possible. They have a willingness to sacrifice home and
comfort to do this. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
From September 2013 NASW News. © 2013 National
Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved. NASW News
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