During the spring 2016 semester, 10 Kent School students participated in University of Louisville’s International Service Learning Program (ISLP), which this year took students to Botswana. They were tasked with developing a social work program to deliver in the school system in Botswana, as well as collaborating with faculty and students from other disciplines at the university and the school administration in Gaborone, Botswana.
Dr. Lesley Harris, Kent School’s Gerontology specialization coordinator and an associate professor, was one of a team of faculty members from multiple disciplines that lead the trip.
“Some of my most enjoyable moments throughout the trip were being able to live with the students and connect in a way that is difficult to do inside a traditional classroom environment. I learned that several of our students had never left the United States before, or had never been on a plane before, which expanded my role into more of a support person when problems arose in our journey,” Harris said.
While in Botswana, students worked in three different schools. Two of the locations were in urban Gaborone (Nanogang and Maoka Junior Secondary Schools), and the other was located in a rural town (Molepolole Junior Secondary School). Students worked in interdisciplinary teams, which included students and faculty from engineering, sports administration, public health and geography.
“For a social worker it is always important to be open minded and to broaden your horizons. Going to Botswana helped me to understand different cultures better and to see something completely different. Teaching the kids and interacting with them was an experience which will be useful for my future social work practice,” said Theresia Pachner, MSSW, Fulbright Scholar from Germany, and a May graduate.
According to Harris, academic service learning places equal emphasis on three outcomes: student learning, service to the community and the development of collaborative and mutually respectful relationships between students and community members with whom they are engaged.
The goals of the ISLP course were to familiarize students with the intersection of service learning and social work values, explore varying perceptions of social work, focus on youth perspectives in an international context, and learn how to develop effective and culturally-appropriate social work programming and materials.
In particular, Kent’s students spent the semester researching a topic, which was given to them by the schools in Botswana. The schools’ administration selected the topic of anti-bullying, so students designed an educational program on the topic and lead the program, in partnership with community hosts, at the schools on bystander interventions.
“This trip has greatly impacted my social work education and practice by allowing myself to grow my culture competence. My experiences have also solidified my passion for the social work discipline and I loved being able to share what I do and why with the students,” said Katie Lutrell, MSSW student, Advanced Standing Program, Gerontology specialization.