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Learnings from an International Field Placement

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Image of Grace KozakMeet Grace Kozak, Alliance Summer MSW Intern

Grace Kozak is a Master of Social Work student at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, studying community organizing and community social services with a certificate in global social work. She has spent the last three months working with the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance in fulfillment of her internationally-focused internship.

International Internship Placement

During her time with the Alliance, Kozak has participated in a wide spectrum of activities. She was able to attend and participate in the Alliance’s in-person Steering Committee meeting, the second annual Global Social Service Workforce Annual Symposium, and the National Association of Child Care Workers biennial conference in Cape Town, South Africa. While in South Africa, Kozak also visited the Isibindi project, learning first-hand about South Africa’s response to the AIDs crisis in the context of child care.

She has also focused much of her time on developing an evidence matrix for the Alliance’s Building Evidence Interest Group. The interest group was created to build a body of evidence to support workforce strengthening and monitor the impact of workforce strengthening efforts. The matrix is designed to be a systematic literature review to highlight gaps in research of the social service workforce, with these gaps revealing where more analysis is needed to better plan, develop, and support the workforce. This was Kozak’s first experience with a literature review and she found it to be a good challenge, “I was able to learn new skills while working on the matrix,” she said. “I worked with the University of Michigan social work librarian to make a research plan. I learned more about how to conduct comprehensive searches and how to filter through a lot of information to find what is needed.”

Kozak has also found ways to incorporate her other interests into this field placement. “I’m interested in human trafficking and social work, and so I was able to write a short post about these topics for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.” Kozak is also passionate about social policy and advocacy, and she met with Dina Kastner, senior field organizer for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to discuss NASW’s current advocacy efforts.

Interest in Global Social Work

Kozak, who will graduate in December 2015, also has her Bachelor of Social Work degree from Ball State University in Indiana. There, she had the opportunity to undertake three social work internships. The first was with Enslavement Prevention Alliance- West Africa (EPAWA), an anti-trafficking organization where she spent a semester while studying abroad in Accra, Ghana. She cites this experience as the catalyst that got her thinking about her role within global social work.

“When I was at EPAWA, I realized that I wasn’t interested in direct service provision for my career. Global social work was still appealing to me, but I was becoming more interested in community-level work and cross cultural collaboration to help solve social problems.”

Kozak’s interest in global social work brought her to the University of Michigan School of Social Work’s Global Activities Scholar Program, which is an opportunity for students who want to work with communities and organizations in a global context. In addition to globally-focused courses, students complete one international field placement. “I wanted a placement that would give me exposure to global social work in a way that emphasized cross-national and cultural collaboration. The Alliance was a perfect fit for me.”

While Kozak is still interested in global social work, her interest in policy advocacy and political organizing has grown. She hopes one day to merge these two passions.

Future Plans

“I’ll be graduating in December, and having this internship has made me more confident in the direction I want to go with my career. I’m still passionate about the potential social work has to make a global impact, and seeing the way the Alliance helps to facilitate this impact has made me hopeful about the future of global social work.”

Ms. Kozak will be leaving the Alliance on August 10 to return to Michigan for her final semester. After graduation, she hopes to work in community-level organizing in East Lansing, Michigan.