Students who work or intern for the International Center undertake a variety of tasks including research, event planning, networking with community members, and website/social media development. They directly address the goals and objectives to connect the work with not only their social work peers but also with the local and global community.
Sherise is a current intern at the Center for International Social Work Studies. She has her Bachelors in Social Work and Psychological Science and is an Advance Standing Social Work Policy student concentrating in International Social Work. At the center, one of her focus is to promote international social work and sustainable development through event planning and collaboration with other institutes and organizations at the University of Connecticut and within the surrounding Hartford community. Sherise has a great interest in multiple areas, including: immigration, globalization, remittances, sustainable development, education, gender equity, and human rights. After graduation, she would like to continue such work within an international agency.
Michelle is a policy practice student in the advance standing program. Her focus is in International Studies and its impact on globalization. Michelle completed her Associate’s Degree in Science from Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury. She then continued her education at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, where she received her Bachelor’s in Social Work. While an undergraduate student, she interned with Workforce Achievers Value Education and Connecticut Junior Republic in Waterbury. She worked with students to enhance their academic and professional skills by providing guidance and learning opportunities. At the Center for International Social Work Studies, Michelle works with faculty and staff in promoting social change and empowerment in the lives of individuals.
The Center for International Social Work Studies has many international partnerships and is proud to introduce past students that have done exceptional work in their field placements and in their current work in the social work profession.
Service in the Peace Corp
My Peace Corps service started in 2015, a year after I graduated from UConn SSW. After my second year placement in the UN with the IASSW, I wanted to continue in the international development field and learn more about the issues communities in other countries are facing. I was selected to serve in Ecuador with the Youth & Families Program, after 3 months of training in the language, culture of Ecuador as well as the programing curriculum; I was placed in the rural beach town of Anconcito. Here I lived with a host family and was assigned my counterpart organization, the local government titled Gobierno Autonomo Descentralizado Anconcito. It was a great match as my main concentration at the SSW was Policy and Practice.
I am able to influence social policy in the community as I interact with government officials like the ministry of education, ministry of health, and the government of the county Anconcito is located. From the moment we arrive at site, we are required to do a community assessment, from there on we learned the issues that our community is facing and start to develop ways to address those issues. I learned that the issues that are most pressing here are drugs, teen pregnancy, lack of jobs, poor eating habits, and machismo. In trying to address those issues, I focused on working with kids and youth in various ways. During the summer time, kids did not have much option to keep themselves busy, so I took an example from back home and implemented summer programs as a way to learn new life skills. We implemented about 12 programs that was able to reach over 500 youths.
In addition, I am a big proponent of sports for development, leading me and my colleague to start a soccer club for youth ages 8 to 16 and also I started a girls basketball team as a continuation of the Let Girls Learn initiative started by then First Lady Michelle Obama. We also did clubs called Superman and Chicas Maravilla that are geared towards kids up to 11 years old that teaches them about communication, nutrition, self-esteem, goal setting. Grassroots soccer, another program, is a curriculum for HIV/AIDS prevention, done with youth 14-17 years old. We did a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp focusing on gender equality and girl and women empowerment.
My life in the community has been very rewarding, after an adjustment period and full integration, this place has become my home and the people have become my friends and family. It has been a wonderful experience. Being a Peace Corps volunteer has taught me lifelong lessons that will follow me wherever I go. The experiences from the past years have helped me grow as a person and as a professional in the field of international development. It has opened my eyes to the world and the beauty of its cultures, languages, landscapes and people.
Field Placement at the Black Sash in Cape Town, South Africa
My experience in Cape Town was one filled with both personal and professional growth. While interning at the Black Sash in Cape Town I got to work on a national campaign called the ‘Hand Off Our Grants’ campaign. A large part of my placement involved direct interactions with communities surrounding Cape Town. I was integrated into many community settings so that I could get to know community members in order to collect the most accurate data from individuals receiving social assistance grants. Back in the office, I would analyze the collected data by working with an outside partner agency, Code for SA. My supervisor at the Black Sash encouraged me to take leadership in working with Code for SA which resulted in me leading our staff meetings that related to analyzing our collected data.
This was a fantastic learning experience for me because although I was only in the community for three months, I was able to fully participate in the campaign process. My advice to anyone about to participate in an international field placement is to go in ready to learn and understand that during your time in a country you will not be able to become an expert on the work but that if you give it your full attention you can still be influential in what is being done. While I was at the Black Sash my motto was to simply say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that presented itself to me. This allowed me to be involved with everyone in the office and gave me opportunities to work in many different capacities.
This motto of saying ‘yes’ to everything also applied to my personal life in Cape Town. I made sure to fully explore and appreciate the country I was in and to take advantage of every available opportunity that was given to me. While in Cape Town I mixed with many locals which helped me to experience all the city had to offer. I also rented a car and went on a road trip along the southern coast of the country so that I could see South Africa beyond Cape Town. South Africa is home to some of the world’s most unique plant and animal life, which results in some truly beautiful scenery.
In my life post-UConn, I work for a nonprofit called buildOn. My job has me working out of a high school in Bridgeport, Connecticut where I encourage young people to take part in community service projects, both locally and abroad. My organization works in seven counties globally (Haiti, Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi, Senegal, and Napal) and each year I have an opportunity to travel with students to one of these countries and build a school. This past summer I was in Haiti with a group of Bridgeport students building a school in a rural Haitian village. My field placement in Cape Town helped to prepare me for the international work I do today by teaching me to embrace the culture of the communities I visit and to approach every new challenge with an open mind.