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08.29.2016

Korea TableFaculty members spent the summer across the globe: they presented research in Vietnam, taught in our Korea-based MSW program, participated in a new study abroad program in Costa Rica, and initiated a graduate certificate program in Korea. Their work expanded the CoSW’s international reach, which already includes study abroad experiences in India and Vietnam.

This year marked the second international conference on the topic of school social work co-hosted by the UofSC CoSW and the Hanoi National University of Education. Faculty members Aidyn Iachini, Huong Nguyen, Melissa Reitmeier, Kristina Webber, and Terry Wolfer gave presentations on their current research and attended a workshop. Nguyen notes that presenting research abroad has special benefits for research: “Presenting research in Vietnam is important for our faculty to extend the impact of their scholarship to a country that is making historic development in social work. It also expands our faculty’s experiences in terms of how to modify and adapt American concepts and models of social work practices into a country with very different political, economic, social, and cultural context.”

Nguyen notes that “there is a lot for social work scholars in Vietnam and the U.S to learn from each other.” Vietnamese social work researchers gain insight into evidence-based practices used in the U.S., Nguyen explains, whereas U.S. scholars can learn about the way in which Vietnamese social workers are trained, “including a very different curriculum decided nationally by the central government, different structures for field education, and also different ways to connect social work schools with field settings.” By going to Vietnam to learn and share, our faculty have even more unique insights to the field that they can bring into the classroom.

Some students benefitted directly from cultural exchange this summer. Professor Ben Roth was one of five UofSC faculty members to lead a new study abroad program in Costa Rica this past May. The program, which centered on the issue of global health, included courses in Spanish, public health, and geography. Students were constantly immersed in Costa Rican life, staying with local host families in San Juan.

Roth taught “Social Welfare Institutions, Policies, and Programs,” which offered an in-depth look at the history and evolution of the social welfare state. Students read about U.S. social programs and then saw Costa Rican programs and institutions firsthand, a particularly “refreshing way to approach the content,” explains Roth. He notes that the “comparative nature of the service-learning aspect enhanced their understanding” in a unique way. Students spent their service-learning hours in a range of institutions, including a state-run psychiatric hospital, a state-run nursing home, and a clinic that provides services to people with HIV.

For Roth, seeing his students gain extensive knowledge and develop analytical tools for processing that knowledge is one of the best parts about teaching abroad. “The most rewarding aspect of the trip for me was debriefing with students after their service-learning experiences,” he says, allowing him “a window into how the overall experience was influencing them intellectually and personally.” The “USC in Costa Rica: Global Health” program will be offered Maymester 2017 as well.

In addition to participating in this new study abroad opportunity in Costa Rica, the CoSW continues to boast a strong outpost of the MSW program in Korea. This summer was Professor Candice Morgan’s fourth time teaching in the Korean MSW program, and she hopes it won’t be her last. “I always have a very rewarding time over there,” she says, and her time with her Korean students has positively influenced her interactions with her American students.

This summer, Morgan taught a course focusing on community social work with the goal of training students “who are interested in community organizing to be able to analyze the issues and to develop a way to respond to the issues with the idea of making positive social change.” When she teaches similar content here in Columbia, she often starts with the abolitionist movement, “big historical moments,” she explains, so teaching in Korea provides an exciting challenge to re-contextualize the material. “When you go over there [to Korea] to teach, you learn your subject from a different point of view,” and this makes her a stronger teacher as a result.

Social work students in Korea also have a new opportunity for learning from the CoSW’s excellent faculty. In coordination with Namseoul University, the CoSW now offers a graduate certificate in addiction studies. Nancy Brown, Director of the Graduate Certificate in Drug and Addiction Studies, hopes that this new program will both prepare students for working in the field and help the Korean social work community advocate for themselves. The inaugural cohort of 15 will complete coursework and a field placement.

Brown wants to see addiction programs “expanding treatment and making it accessible,” and she believes training social workers in this certificate program will make a difference. “Being part of improving treatment, whether it’s here [in South Carolina] or in Korea has been my goal as a social work educator and counselor,” says Brown, and the new program with Namseoul University is an important step in furthering that goal.

Our faculty are making an impact at home and abroad, building relationships and having experiences that will shape their research and teaching. As a result, the CoSW continues to have an international reach that makes it truly unique.

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