Lynne Healy has spent the past three decades preparing new generations of social workers for deployment in an increasingly diverse world.
The growing diversity in the communities where graduates of the School of Social Work’s advanced degree programs work is reflected in the classes the students take. A recent class on International Development, Healy said, included students from Albania, Dominica, Ghana, Guyana, Nepal, Nigeria, and Rwanda. While a few of the students were foreign nationals, most of them were immigrants living in the U.S.
“There has definitely been a growth in interest in international studies,” says Healy, who started working at UConn full-time 33 years ago. “For some of those students, there is interest in working in another country; but for others, those international issues are right here in the diverse populations in Connecticut and places like Hartford.”
According to the latest census figures, one in eight Connecticut residents were born outside the United States, and one in five Connecticut children speak a language other than English at home.
Connecting with individuals from diverse and sometimes dramatically different cultures can be a challenge.
“Every social worker needs some awareness and knowledge of international issues,” says Healy. “There is a lot more attention being given to these different populations coming into our agencies, our schools, our hospitals, our clinics.”
Healy said the social work profession was focused almost entirely on domestic issues when she first started at UConn. But steady growth in the country’s immigrant population, and recognition of the impact of globalization, have changed that perspective over time.
UConn in many ways was ahead of the curve. Healy was instrumental in establishing UConn’s Center for International Social Work Studies 20 years ago. She still serves as the Center’s co-director. Located within the School of Social Work at UConn’s campus in West Hartford, the Center helps social workers develop a global perspective on human rights, human needs, social policy, and social work practice.
Since its inception, the Center has hosted talks by visitors from 37 different countries and it continues to sponsor frequent seminars and conferences on topics such as human trafficking, World AIDS Day, immigration law, and others. Through her work with the Center, Healy has initiated international and interdisciplinary collaborations, most notably UConn’s partnership with the University of the West Indies – Mona Campus.
Salome Raheim, dean of UConn’s School of Social Work, describes Healy as a “teacher of teachers” and “an internationally known scholar in the field of international social work.”
“Dr. Healy is an educator of extraordinary ability and dedication,” Raheim said in a letter nominating Healy for consideration as a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor. “The global perspective that she brings through her scholarship and internationally-focused public engagement enriches the content of our academic programs and enhances student learning.”
An administrator, teacher, researcher, and accomplished author, Healy is credited with writing one of the seminal publications on international social work: International Social Work: Professional Action in an Interdependent World (Oxford University Press, 2001, 2008). More recently, she served as co-editor of the Handbook of International Social Work: Human Rights, Development, and the Global Profession (Oxford University Press, 2012).
Angelina Yuen, a professor and vice president at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and president of the International Association of Schools of Social Work, described the Handbook of International Social Work as “a monumental masterpiece that is destined to become a classic text for students, scholars, and practitioners interested in international social work across the globe.”
Yuen said Healy is “generally regarded as one of the most outstanding pioneers” in the field of international social work, adding that her works have been used as textbooks by social work scholars and students throughout the globe and have “significantly impacted the development of international social work worldwide.”