Wayne State School of Social Work forges international relationship with Swiss university


A faculty delegation from the Wayne State University’s School of Social Work will go to Switzerland this month to strengthen a burgeoning relationship with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences’ School of Social Work that will ultimately comprise research collaborations, reciprocal teaching opportunities and study abroad experiences.

Led by Interim Dean and Distinguished Professor Jerrold Brandell, the delegation will include representatives of the school’s key academic, training, and scholarship activities. Specifically, the group consists of Associate Dean for Research Joanne Sobeck, Director of Field Education Anwar Najor-Durack, Professor Poco Kernsmith, Associate Professor for Research Joanne Smith-Darden, and Assistant Professor Jun Sung Hong. Another member of the faculty, Associate Professor Richard Smith, will visit ZHAW later in the year.

The School of Social Work’s relationship with the Swiss university began in 2014, when Ursula Blosser, dean of ZHAW’s School of Social Work, invited Brandell to spend a month of his sabbatical in Zurich. While there, Brandell taught an intensive short course on psychoanalysis and clinical social work and presented a colloquium to ZHAW’s social work faculty on focal conflict analysis. The following year, Professor Frank Wittmann, director of ZHAW’s Institute of Management and Social Policy, came to Detroit to meet with Sobeck and her staff at the Wayne State Center for Social Work Research. Accompanied by two colleagues, Professors Dirk Baier and Monica Goetzo, Wittmann paid another visit to the Wayne State School of Social Work in 2016.  

The Wayne State social work faculty’s trip to Zurich this month marks the fourth consecutive year that the schools have played host to each other. Brandell says the visits illustrate the innately collaborative nature of social work and the ways that “a global perspective enhances our approach to working with a whole range of issues.”

“Our relationship with ZHAW affords us the opportunity to examine new and potentially very helpful ideas for addressing social problems that are common to both Detroit and Zurich, including (but certainly not limited to) substance misuse, intimate partner violence, and the physical and psychobehavioral wellbeing of older adults,” Brandell said.

The members of the delegation heading to Zurich this month developed proposals at the invitation of Wayne State’s Social Work Global Committee for collaborative research to conduct with faculty at the ZHAW School of Social Work. They have received generous support from the Office of International Programs under the leadership of Ahmad Ezzeddine, associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs at Wayne State, and from the Wayne State School of Social Work, which matched the funding from Ezzeddine’s office.

According to Brandell, the next phase of the evolving relationship with ZHAW will likely involve student exchanges ranging from short, intensive learning trips to semester-long experiences. The School of Social Work has partnered with other American universities in recent years to give Wayne State social work students study abroad opportunities in Guatemala, Ecuador, Poland and the Netherlands.

Back to listing

150 years in the heart of Detroit