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Photo Credit: Lawrence S. Root

Global Social Work Learning Community

The GSWLC seeks to enrich social work research, teaching, and practice through scholarly exchanges and reciprocal learning focused on international and comparative perspectives. Further, the GSWLC will collaborate with other Learning Communities to incorporate international perspectives into their areas.


As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, emphasis on global perspectives has become increasingly pervasive. Just as multinational corporations conduct business across international boundaries creating economic interdependence, the policies and actions taken by nation states and international NGOs have an impact on individuals, families and communities across the world. When hundreds of millions of tons of electronic waste from the West piles up in a dump in Ghana, there are serious health issues for the community; when most clothing sold in the U.S. is manufactured abroad, there are implications for jobs, poverty and health in all locations; and when the spread of HIV/AIDS is unable to be suppressed because of the lack of resources, education, prevention and treatment, the whole world is negatively impacted.

Events in remote places take on immediacy for us as global communications vividly bring them to our attention. We are informed and sometimes transformed by our global interconnectedness. We are moved to donate money because of a natural disaster in Haiti, Sri Lanka, or Pakistan and horrified by the "stoning" of an Iraqi girl; we contemplate giving more than $2.5 billion a year in foreign government aid to China, the world's second largest economy, while questioning its human rights practices. What are illustrative in these examples are not the events or issues per se, but rather our knowledge of them, and how we interpret and respond to these events and issues as individuals and as a society. Social workers are working with immigrants and refugees, addressing issues of human rights and child labor, working on transnational adoptions, and engaging in a range of activities that touch upon cross-national impacts, understandings, and misunderstandings. As a social work program we can opt to integrate and further emphasize the ramifications of these global connections for our curriculum and our students, as well as our research and writing.

What do we mean by "Global Social Work"

  • Global social work is an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority for equity and justice in the psychosocial wellbeing of individuals, families and communities around the globe - thus, we accept the notion that the fundamental tenets of the social work profession are equally applicable across the world, and that we are, in fact, a "profession without borders."
  • Global social work focuses on one's cultural and national identities as well as alternatives presented by other cultural and national perspectives - thus, while we accept the fact that individuals will see the world through their own lived experiences and identities, a global perspective would require individuals to listen and understand the lived experiences and perspectives of others.
  • Global social work refers to the scope and nature of the problems not their geographical locations - thus, we focus on issues that have transnational determinants such as poverty and violence, while simultaneously addressing unique issues that may be driven more by domestic policies and/or regional differences in addition to culture and values.
  • Global social work includes complex transactions across societies - thus, we endorse the fundamental premise that the "developed world" is not the sole purveyor of good ideas. That is, we emphasize the principle that the experiences, knowledge, and resources utilized to address similar problems in different parts of the world when taken together, are most likely to result in the best possible solutions.

Key Mechanisms

  • Fostering international collaborations and systemic relationships with partner schools
  • Supporting international and cross-national knowledge development
  • International research support for faculty and doctoral students
  • GSWLC symposiums
  • Partnering with other Learning Communities to incorporate international perspectives into key social work topic areas
  • Encouraging teaching/curricular innovations that foster critical thinking about global connections in defining, understanding, and responding to social needs

Participating Faculty

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  • M. Antonio G. Alvarez

    LEO Lecturer II
    School social work, adventure based practice, child welfare, community-based interventions, bullying and suicide prevention and intervention, international social work, and practice with indigenous/immigrant populations.
  • Lauren M. Davis

    DEI Program Manager & LEO Adjunct Lecturer
  • Jorge Delva

    Kristine A. Siefert Collegiate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, and Director, Communities Engagement Program, Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research
    Drug epidemiology, program evaluation, survey research, cross-cultural and cross-national research, the use of multilevel statistics to study individual- and contextual-level variables.
  • Larry M. Gant

    Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, and Professor of Art and Design, School of Art and Design
    Program evaluation, social action, community-based health programs, community organization and social planning; public health social work, international social work, arts-based community development, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS
  • Sherrie A. Kossoudji

    Associate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Economics, College of LS&A
    Immigrant work lives, labor market inequalities, migrant worker opportunities, gender economics.
  • Lydia W. Li

    Associate Professor of Social Work
    Mental health and cognitive function in later life; community-based interventions for depression and cognitive impairment prevention in older Chinese populations; ageism, racism and health.
  • Kathleen L. Lopez

    Assistant Director Office of Global Activities and LEO Adjunct Lecturer
  • Beth Glover Reed

    Associate Professor of Social Work and Women's Studies
    Gender/ethnicity in social systems, feminist/multicultural practice, alcohol/drugs.

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