In the fall of 1999 the UConn School of Social Work accepted a proposal for a Partnership and Exchange Program between the University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Social Work (SSW) and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) School of Social Work (SSW). The partnership and exchange would strengthen both social work programs in the following ways:
- Curriculum and workshop exchanges
- Simultaneous teaching
- Faculty and student exchanges for academic and field training purposes
- Cultural exchanges
- Satellite interactive teleconferences
- Research collaborations
- UConn SSW active involvement in Latin American Social Work Conferences
The Exchange Program began in January of 2001 when a group of UConn faculty, graduate social work students and alumni took part in a ten day travel elective course to San Juan and Vieques, Puerto Rico: SWEL 5333: Travel to and Study in San Juan and Vieques, Puerto Rico. The purpose of the course was: 1) to learn about the history of Puerto Rico and the traditional values/customs; 2) to increase understanding of the social, economic, political, psychological and cultural dynamics that impact the lives of Puerto Ricans; 3) heighten awareness of migration patterns, cultural identity formation and the impact of colonization, oppression and racism on Puerto Ricans. The visit to Vieques, Puerto Rico, was a planned learning experience to expose participants to human rights violations and social injustices occurring on the island.
In 2002 a group of faculty and students from the University of Puerto Rico School of Social Work came CT also as part of a travel course that provided them opportunities to learn about social work practice with Puerto Rican migrants, their families and communities in the United States. Since then, alternating cohorts of graduate level MSW students from UPR and UConn have participated in the Exchange Program. The mission of this exchange is a comparative study of social work practice and social justice advocacy between UConn and UPR School of Social Work.
Since the inception of the Exchange Program, a total of 70 student agency visits designed to compare the differences in professional practice and social advocacy have been accomplished. Approximately, 45 UPR students and 6 faculty members have shared the Puerto Rico to United States experience; and 69 UConn students and 6 faculty members have shared the United States to Puerto Rico experience. In 2006, a video entitled “I swear I didn’t know” was made by UConn students about their exchange experience on the island of Vieques. Also, two journal articles have been published that discuss the outcomes and educational and practice value of this exchange experience.