FSU social work faculty amp up international collaboration in 2017

The Florida State University College of Social Work made new international connections and developed collaborations around the world in 2017. Social work faculty partnered with universities and colleagues at leading institutions from other continents to create innovative scholarship, training and dialogue.

“FSU social work faculty have taken the social work scholarship they’ve developed at the local and national levels and brought it to an international context,” said Norman Anderson, research professor in the College of Social Work and assistant vice president for research and academic affairs. “These new collaborations have the potential for global impact.”

These partnerships are unique and valuable opportunities to demonstrate how research and scholarship can affect real-life situations and problems beyond U.S. borders. Anderson said that international work is a two-way street — there are mutual and reciprocal benefits for FSU and its partners.

“We get as much as we give through international collaboration,” he said. “It not only advances the research by our faculty and those at non-U.S. institutions, but it can create countless opportunities to enrich the educational experience for our students on the graduate and undergraduate level. These collaborations are truly a win-win for everyone.”

Here are some of the places FSU social work faculty traveled in 2017 in an effort to increase internationalization:

Northern Ireland

FSU Professor of Social Work and Director of International Programs Neil Abell established a partnership with Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. Abell cultivated relationships within the Northern Irish social work practice community and facilitated international internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate social work students. Abell also was supported by Queen’s University as a visiting scholar in the fall of 2016, leading to his current project developing social work curricula modules to complement existing curriculum on “The Troubles,” a recent period of violent conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestant and Catholic citizens.

Abell was accompanied by Terry Coonan on his most recent visit to Northern Ireland. Coonan is director of the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, which funded the visit. Together, they met with the academic, legal and social work practice communities to expand understanding of The Troubles and their impact on postconflict Northern Ireland. They explored the intersection of legal and social work initiatives responding to lingering trauma from The Troubles. Abell will continue to work with Queen’s University on this project and plans to offer the content nationwide as an element of Northern Irish social work education.


Professor Amy L. Ai was invited to speak by the Tsinghua University School for Public Policy and Management (SPPM), the leading institute in its field. Following several major disasters, including terrorist attacks, the school developed an interest in learning from Western countries on topics related to crisis and risk management. Based on that interest, Ai was invited to serve as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair at SPPM, but the school was unable to provide the required housing.

Instead, Ai was invited to speak at a two-day event in May. At the school’s training and research center, Ai’s presentation, “Resilience and Human Strengths: Implications for Strength-based Crisis Management,” reviewed overall theoretical framework and key findings from several studies linking human strengths with collective trauma and disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The following day, she met with the school’s associate dean, Peng Zongtao, faculty and graduate students for a research discussion and exchange. SPPM Dean Xue Lan encouraged the development of further international collaboration. THU, established in 1911, is ranked the best university in China and a top institution in Asia, with the best engineering and computer science programs in the world.


Dean Jim Clark was invited to speak at the Paris Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po) in Paris. He presented on mass incarceration and the death penalty in the United States. He was joined by Professor Roberto Galbiati of Sciences Po, who presented on his recent experiment with sentencing incentives in Italy. Sciences Po is a highly influential academic institution in the social sciences in France. The institution is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs and the Global Public Policy Network.


Tomi Gomory served as the keynote speaker at the 650th birthday celebration of the University of Pécs, Hungary’s oldest university, in April. The event also marked the 25th anniversary of the university’s social work department. Gomory is a native of Hungary. He visits the University of Pécs regularly since completing a six-month residency there as a Fulbright Scholar in 2005, where he researched and taught about mental health and homelessness. Currently, Gomory is working to integrate the deliberate practice and feedback-informed treatment approaches into clinical social work practice both in the United States and in Hungary. Planning is underway for a visit in spring 2018 for Gomory and Dean Jim Clark to Pécs to further explore collaboration between the two institutions.


Karen Oehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies at the FSU College of Social Work, forged new relationships with Tokyo International University and Taisho University. The partnership resulted in an international seminar on postdivorce parenting in Japan sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. The event featured Oehme as a seminar speaker on “Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce,” a free online training for parents developed by FSU researchers and funded by a grant from the Vandermark Foundation. Currently, there is a lack of joint custody or court-mandated shared parenting in Japan.

Hong Kong

Professor Bruce Thyer is a member of the external review team evaluating the Department of Applied Social Sciences (APSS) at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. APSS is the largest academic department across all universities in Hong Kong and includes master’s and bachelor’s degree programs in social work. Thyer spent two days on site at the program in November along with two other external reviewers from Australia and New Zealand. The review team met with various stakeholders, including graduate students, administrators and program faculty. Next summer, the team will return to Hong Kong for a more in-depth look at the program and prepare an evaluation report, which will be used by university administrators to help plan the direction of the department. While in Hong Kong, Thyer delivered a talk to social work faculty and students at the University of Hong Kong, titled “How to Write Strong Design Sections for Research Grants.”