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Nallo 2The College of Social Work at USC has long been building bridges between countries and cultures—from crafting key partnerships with social workers in South Korea to engaging with a wide range of organizations within South Carolina. Most recently, the College of Social Work expanded its reach to partner with social work programs in India by co-sponsoring the International Conference on Women and Millennium Development Goals in Gujarat, India.

The conference was borne out of USC’s collaboration with the faculty of social work at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, and USC faculty and alumna also played key roles in the success of the conference. College of Social Work alumna Dr. Noël Busch-Armendariz delivered the keynote address, speaking on violence against women and how improving women’s lives will improve development. “The fact that the College of Social Work at USC is present and engaged in many countries around the world is impressive and says a lot about leadership,” said Dr. Busch-Armendariz, now a social work professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “It makes me proud as a graduate.”

 Ms. Sudie Nallo, clinical assistant professor of social work at USC, presented a paper on strengthening public health systems in West Africa. She said that the interdisciplinary conference called upon participants to draw parallels between different cultures and fields of study. “The conference was a call for all communities to come together,” she said. “These are not just Indian issues, but world issues.”

Ms. Nallo was able to take part in the conference with the help of USC’s Walker Institute, which has created the CarolIndia initiative—a yearlong program that encourages education and exchange between the US and India. But the College of Social Work faculty and administration have been cultivating such partnerships with India even before this initiative.

Dr. Teri Browne began forging partnerships with social workers in India in 2012, when she was the keynote speaker at an interdisciplinary kidney conference in Mumbai. The conference included around 900 kidney professionals from around the world. She also had the opportunity to present at one of the largest kidney hospitals in India in Gujarat, where she spoke to physicians, surgeons, social workers, and social work students—the latter of whom traveled from as far as 90 miles to hear Dr. Browne’s talk.

“This kind of collaboration is important because it informs our practice here,” Dr. Browne said, from providing a better understanding of the needs of diverse populations to learning about different methods of practicing social work. In the future, Dr. Browne hopes to explore the possibility of partnering with social work programs and organizations in India to provide students with field placements there. In the meantime, she continues to collaborate on research projects with her Indian colleagues.

Dr. Busch-Armendariz, whose life and work have often taken her abroad, also sees the importance of continuing to reach across borders and boundaries. “It’s important to understand the commonalities among us and recognize what we have to learn from each other,” she said. “We can’t just think about our own communities, but how we’re all connected.”

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