Social work bridging cultures: A visit to the Russian New University

elspeth-slayter-lecture-at-russian-new-university

As a social work educator, I have been particularly curious about the nature of social work education in the Russian Federation.  Therefore, I was thrilled to receive an invitation – facilitated by the Eurasia Foundation – to meet with a group of social work students and their professors.  Today, I had the opportunity to give a simple lecture (you can listen to that lecture here via screencast) on social work practice with people with disabilities to this group of students, professors and administrators from Russian New University in Moscow.  This private university was founded in 1991, and is one of the few private universities to have a social work education program.  The social work program is brand new, and the students and professors pictured here are the inaugural students, all of whom are very excited about their program.  Their program is mostly focused on in-class coursework, although all of the students participate in volunteer programs.  They were able to make a connection with Nastavniki/Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Moscow today, and hopefully will be volunteer mentors soon! After my lecture and discussion, we discussed the possibility of engaging in video conference exchanges between our students on shared topics of interest, and I hope this will come to pass!

Although two potential translators were present in the classroom, I was encouraged to give my lecture in slow, simple English, which I did my best to remember.  In Russia, all students are required to study English, I have learned.  I find this humbling, given the terrible track record that the U.S. has vis-a-vis educating many students in a second language.  I could sense that while the students were hesitant to speak, they were comprehending at least *some* of what I was saying.  One student liked my commentary on the social model of disability so much that she blew me a kiss and gave me a thumbs up.  I was asked a series of questions, along the lines of the following: Where do social workers practice? Do social workers work with people who are homeless? Do social workers work in schools? What were the high and low points of your social work career?

Some questions remain the same the world over!