Wurzweiler’s Eight Fulbright Specialists Gain International Perspective
The handiest item among academics at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work may be a passport.
Since 2008, eight members of the school’s faculty have been named Fulbright Specialists. The highly acclaimed program grants awards to U.S. faculty and professionals in select disciplines ranging from agriculture to urban planning to participate in two- to-six week projects at colleges and universities in more than 100 countries. As Specialists, Wurzweiler professors have taught and studied across the globe, in countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom, on topics as disparate as palliative care and ethnic tensions.
“We’re an adventurous faculty,” said Dean Carmen Ortiz Hendricks, who became the school’s first Fulbright Specialist three years ago and has since spread her enthusiasm for the program to her colleagues. “We like new experiences. The Fulbright forms an international exchange of scholars, sending us to places where we can make a difference, learn something new and bring knowledge back with us to our home institutions.”
Hendricks’ project took her to Israel, where she shared her expertise in cultural competence with students and social workers at Tel Hai College in the north and Ben Gurion University in the south, stopping along the way at Hebrew University, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center and YU’s own campus in Israel. “It was an incredible experience not only because I got to teach but because Israel is such a diverse country,” she said. “In Ben Gurion, which has the largest Arab student population, I learned about Bedouin Arabs’ conflict with the Israeli government about abandoning their nomadic lifestyle and move into towns. In Jerusalem I spoke to an audience of Ethiopian, Russian and native Israeli social workers, asking them to define their own concept of cultural competence.” She added: “Israel truly is the crossroads of the world.”
Following Hendricks’ trip, other faculty began to take flight. Dr. Jerry Streets, The Carl and Dorothy Bennet Professor of Pastoral Counseling, traveled with colleague Dr. Rozetta Wilmore-Schaeffer to South Africa, where he assisted in the establishment of an International Institute for Diversity at the University of The Free State (UFS). Wilmore-Schaeffer’s work at UFS focused on building a relationship within, between and among racially diverse students and faculty in an institution whose history has been one of racial intolerance. In Israel, Dr. Joan Beder taught a masters’-level two-week seminar at Hebrew University (HU) about social work with the military and met with scholars from Bar-Ilan and HU to explore possible research and collaboration.
For Dr. Gary Stein, a two-week Fulbright at Lancaster University’s International Observatory for End of Life Care provided valuable insight into the way palliative care is evolving in other countries. “The students in my seminars at LU came from around the world: Slovenia, Nepal, Kenya, Canada, the U.S. and the UK,” he said. “In our discussions, I heard international perspectives on how people practice, varying access to resources, how social workers are trained.” Stein also collaborated with leaders at St. Christopher’s Hospice to create a field placement for Wurzweiler students in the Manchester area and met with British experts in palliative care for aging lesbian and gay populations. “We’re creating a cadre of recognized leaders who are putting Wurzweiler on the map as one of the most prestigious and respected programs for sharing knowledge and academics on an international level.”
More Fulbright projects are in the works. In the spring, Dr. Norman Linzer, The Samuel J. and Jean Sable Chair in Jewish Family Social Work, will lecture on the teaching of ethics at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Dr. Saul Andron has also been approved to develop a project which will center on Jewish communal service.
In April, Dr. Jonathan Fast, an expert in school violence, will travel to the University of Temperi in Finland to deliver a series of lectures about the link between school shootings and extreme shaming. “Finland has had a spate of shootings: two in schools and one in a mall that was particularly horrifying,” said Fast. His research analyzes 13 school violence cases and the perpetrator’s history of social isolation and shame in each one. At Temperi, he will present his findings and pool knowledge with local academics whose work focuses on this area.
“Universities travel on their prestige,” Fast said. “The Fulbright gives us experience working internationally and prevents us from being insular or provincial. We’re dealing with a shrinking world, and in that sense it’s critical to meet scholars around the world and exchange information with them.”
He added: “Newton said, ‘I accomplish what I do because I stand on the shoulders of giants.’ All intellectual progress is built with collaboration.”
The Fulbright Specialists will share their experiences in podcasts available on the Wurzweiler Web site.