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BC-Santander Agreement Extends International PhD Program

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, shakes hands with Roman Blanco, president and CEO of Santander Bank US, at a July 8 signing ceremony to extend BC's international social welfare doctoral program, headquartered in the Graduate School of Social Work. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: July 11, 2014

A Boston College program that aims to build global expertise in social welfare has been renewed for three years, following an agreement with Santander Universities, a division of Santander Bank, NA.

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and Roman Blanco, president and CEO of Santander Bank US, formally extended the BC-Santander agreement at a July 8 signing ceremony attended by BC and Santander representatives. Under the agreement, Santander will continue its support for the University’s international doctoral program in social welfare, headquartered in the Graduate School of Social Work.  

“Our perspectives are enlarged [through the program], and we acquire a greater awareness of the world around us,” said Fr. Leahy at the ceremony.

Established in 2011, the social welfare program enables BC to form partnerships and exchanges with Jesuit, Catholic universities in Latin America, Spain and elsewhere in the world to advance and professionalize the field of social welfare. The program offers research-driven knowledge, experience-based insight, and field-tested skills to address the unique issues faced by students’ respective countries or communities.

Participants in the PhD program split time between the partner university and BC, taking formal courses and producing scholarly material. In the final phase of the program, participants complete a final dissertation that deals with a social problem in his or her home

The program’s first two students, both from Mexican universities, were at BC during the past academic year; a second cohort is slated to arrive on campus in the fall, and a third has been admitted to the program.

Fr. Leahy and other speakers at the July 8 event underscored the program’s benefits not only to students and the partner institutions, but also the social welfare field. Perhaps most importantly, they noted, the program helps talented professionals develop skills and
practices they can take back to their respective countries – a departure from the much-criticized “brain drain” model of the past.

“These individuals will be teachers,” said Fr. Leahy, “and the multiplicity of a teacher’s impact on those around him or her cannot be overstated.”

The BC-Santander agreement symbolizes “the promise and the power of international connections,” said Blanco, who praised the “unique” doctoral program for “bringing together varying perspectives, providing valuable training and experience to make change where it is needed.”

GSSW Dean Alberto Godenzi said the social welfare doctoral program reflects the school’s “special attention to transformation on a global scale.” Noting the rise of the Latino population in the US, he said that the opportunity for BC to gain a better understanding of language and culture in Latino countries and societies “is a major benefit to us all.”

In addition to Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO) in Guadalajara, the program’s partner institutions now include Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, Chile, and conversations are continuing with other schools, Godenzi said.