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In March 2007, Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work hosted the nation’s first conference on international social work. Representatives from more than 80 schools in some 30 states met to discuss best practices in the field. This summer, Assistant Professor Ce Shen will co-chair the International Consortium of Social Development’s symposium in Hong Kong.
BC’s involvement in these two conferences points to the stature that the Graduate School of Social Work has attained over the past five years. The School is now recognized as a leader in preparing skilled and values-driven social work professionals who have hands-on experience in an international setting.
“Our international focus is one of the primary reasons that students choose to attend BC,” notes Dean Alberto Godenzi, “and our global field placements, established in partnership with top international relief and development agencies, are among the most sought after.” The School’s Global Practice Department offers students first-hand experience through field placements with organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Service, Habitat for Humanity, and the International Rescue Committee.
During the spring 2007 semester, 11 students journeyed to four continents to work with orphans, teens, victims of domestic violence, and other vulnerable populations. More than half of the participating students are fluent in at least two languages, and all have experience either working or studying abroad. Unlike most study-abroad trips, however, in which students spend an average of three weeks in a foreign country, the field placements last for an entire semester. The extended stay affords a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges inherent in international social work.
Lilly Iarrapino, M.S.W. ’07, traveled to Ethiopia to work with the International Rescue Committee on developing a social welfare program for adolescents. “It is almost surreal that opportunities I had only daydreamed about have become a reality,” she says.
The Global Practice Department has attracted faculty with extensive teaching and research experience in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. Its core strength lies, however, in its alignment with a key tenet of Boston College’s mission as a Jesuit, Catholic institution: to prepare students for “citizenship, service, and leadership in a global society.”
Caption: M.S.W. candidates Tatiana Schettini and Meaghan Quinlan (front row), Brooke Konecny (second row), and Elizabeth Condon and Linda Barnes (back row), shown in a secondary school classroom in a refugee camp in Mtabila, Tanzania.