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Faculty Roundtable- Social Work Day at the U.N.

How can social work programs ensure that all students receive international content? This question was tackled by faculty members in a roundtable discussion held in conjunction with the annual Social Work Day at the United Nations. The March 25 event was sponsored by CSWE’s Katherine A. Kendall Institute (KAKI) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and engaged faculty members from across the United States and several other countries. The discussions were enhanced by the participation of Annamaria Campanini, president of IASSW, who traveled from Italy for the Social Work Day events, and Darla Spence Coffey, president and CEO of CSWE. Several members of the KAKI Advisory Board and the IASSW team of representatives at the UN also assisted.

In an ideal world every student would have the chance to study or complete a field internship in another country, but barriers of cost, infrastructure for international exchange, and student obligations at home make this unrealistic at present. Participants shared a number of alternative ways to enhance international learning and spark student interest. Some have expanded opportunities for field placements with immigrant communities, and one participant spoke of her success in involving students in research projects in immigrant neighborhoods. Other approaches noted by participants included involving students in advocacy efforts on global issues such as human rights and environmental justice, using technology to teach across borders, ensuring that course readings are drawn from authors in diverse countries, exposing students to visiting international faculty members, and applying international tools and materials such as those from the UN to local problems. Some schools have also developed creative ways to generate funds to expand international travel opportunities.

A few participants suggested that more clarity be sought on the goals for international curricula and noted the need to communicate a clear rationale to the wider educational community to move forward. All agreed that the discussions were fruitful and recommended expanding the roundtables to make them more international. It was agreed to organize another faculty roundtable during the 2019 Social Work Day events and work to plan a session as part of the IASSW/ICSW international conference in Rimini in 2020. An informal interest group discussion may be feasible at the Dublin world conference in July 2018.

Lynne Healy, Katherine A. Kendall Institute Advisory Board Chair