September 20, 2010

Unique program available to social work students

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Over the next four years, a select group of Southern Illinois University Carbondale social work students will be able to earn a certificate in international human rights through a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

A $180,000 grant from the department’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education will underwrite a semester of study at MCI Management Center in Innsbruck, Austria, or Coburg University of Applied Sciences in Coburg, Germany, for 12 students enrolled in SIUC’s School of Social Work. It will offer the same support to 12 social work students from Fordham University. Separate funding will allow 24 students from the European universities to take classes at SIUC and Fordham.

“It’s pretty much a pioneering program,” SIUC professor and project director Elisabeth Reichert said. “I’m not aware of any other school of social work in the U.S. that offers such a certificate.”

While Reichert has taught Study Abroad courses to social work students for some years, this opportunity is different, she stressed.

“Students will be there for five months,” she said. “They will get a feeling for what it’s like to live in a country other than their own. They will gain much more understanding of cultural issues than they would if they were there for just 12 days.

“Also, in Study Abroad courses students are surrounded by other American students. In this program, they will be surrounded by people who live in these communities. It’s a totally different experience.”

The first three SIUC students will begin their studies overseas this spring semester. Applicants must be juniors, seniors or graduate students who have spent at least a year in SIUC’s social work program. They must submit a formal application form, available from the program’s website at (click on the link to FIPSE in the menu on the left side of the page) or from the social work office, Room 6, Quigley Hall. References and a brief essay outlining reasons for applying must accompany the form. Selection criteria include experience, grades and motivation.