The University of Alabama

UA School of Social Work to Help Chinese Universities Develop MSW Programs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama School of Social Work’s international ties continue to strengthen following the announcement of a collaborative with universities in mainland China.

Over the next five years, the UA School of Social Work will work directly with Yunnan University to help develop teaching resources for master’s level social work programs. The partnership also will provide faculty exchanges and research collaborations.

According to the Council of Social Work Education, “U.S. programs will assist their Chinese partners in the development of MSW programs that reflect the unique aspects of graduate education in mainland China. The academic programs are committed to building capacity through faculty, staff and student exchanges; mentoring and consultation; building research infrastructure; and further strengthening social work education in an international context.”

Yunnan University, located in Southwest China, will serve as the lead institution for multiple universities in its region. Yunnan is one of seven Chinese universities, each partnered with a school from the United States.

Dr. Lucinda Roff, dean of the UA School of Social Work, along with representatives from the other U.S. schools involved, traveled to China to meet with Chinese faculty members in early December. Both sides developed plans for American faculty to provide seminars on teaching social work – primarily about working with children, adolescents and the elderly – in China during the summer of 2013. Roff said there’s a possibility of establishing visiting scholars programs and collaborating on research between UA and Chinese faculty.

Roff said the assistance to Chinese faculty will center on direct practice, field education and practice skills development.

“We expect to have up to six Chinese faculty members here in the fall immediately before the (CSWE) APM (Annual Program Meeting),” Roff said. “They would like two more of our faculty to present workshops in China in December 2013, then send one of their faculty members to UA as a visiting scholar in spring, 2014. We expect to develop research collaborations using Skype and the Internet. We also expect to see one or two Ph.D. applications from students from southwest China for fall 2013.”

The partnership builds on previous efforts by UA faculty members in Hong Kong, where Dr. Phil Crunk, former UA professor, formed a partnership with Shue Yan University to teach master’s level courses in Hong Kong. For much of that partnership, UA faculty taught the first year of their curriculum, while students did an internship in Hong Kong and finished the program at UA.

“In the initial year, I expect four different faculty members will go to China,” said Roff. “Maybe more as the years go on. Over the years, the number of our faculty members that will be involved should be as many as who want to be. I think it’s a great cultural experience for anyone.”

The Social Work field is relatively young in China, and though it has official support of the government, it will take time for it to trickle down into infrastructure of government and social services because most people don’t have a concept of social work, Roff said.

“Just as in the U.S., China has a rapidly aging population,” Roff explained. “Unlike the U.S., because of China’s one-child policy, there are even fewer young people to take care of the burgeoning aging population. There’s a strong tradition of family care, so how is that going to work out? Rural to urban migrants, similar to the United States in the early 1900s, pose another issue.”

Additionally, Roff hopes to send UA students to China in a plan similar to a two-week trip UA students took to Hong Kong in summer 2012 – a first in the previous partnership.

“Yunnan province borders Tibet, Laos and Myanmar,” Roff explained, “and it’s the most biologically diverse part, the most ethnically diverse. There are more than 26 racial and ethnic and minority groups in Yunnan that are recognized by the Chinese government. It’s an opportunity for diverse cultural learning because there are different languages and customs. Our faculty and students have a wonderful opportunity.”

Other United States universities participating in the China Collaborative over the next five years include Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Fordham University, the University of Chicago, the University of Houston, and the University of Southern California.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.