Building a Budding Social Work Profession 

While in Indonesia, School of Social Welfare faculty member Mary McCarthy, above, at Islamic University in Yogyakarta, where she was invited to give a lecture.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 16, 2020) – The School of Social Welfare has been building partnerships around the globe for many years. It has a long-standing relationship with Indonesia, where the two cultures have much to learn from each other, and where UAlbany's long experience in the field is helping a budding social work profession to flourish.

Mary McCarthy worked at Padjadjaran University in Bandung in the fall through the Fulbright Specialist Program, assisting with new social work degree programs, visiting field sites for Bandung agencies and working with almost a dozen faculty and doctoral students on their research articles.

McCarthy is the Co-PI for the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute and a faculty member in the School of Social Welfare.

“Social work has only been a profession in Indonesia for the last 15 to 20 years,” McCarthy said. “It parallels the evolution of democracy in that country.” The U.S., in contrast, has experience in teaching social work for more than 100 years.

McCarthy’s experience was featured on the Feb. 20 edition of The Social Workers Radio Talk Show, hosted by Alyssa Lotmore and Eric Hardiman. Hardiman noted many people may not know that UAlbany is networked globally and has a longstanding partnership with Padjadjaran.

McCarthy was hosted by UAlbany Social Welfare alum Binahayati Rusyidi, an important leader in the development of social work as a profession in Indonesia.

“We have a consistent pool of applicants to the doctoral program from Indonesia, encouraged by our alumni,” McCarthy said. Rusyidi returned to Albany in 2018 on Fulbright funding to continue her research on violence against women, and family violence. She and McCarthy started a cross-national study focused on how social welfare undergrads develop skills through their education program and prepare to transfer these skills to the workplace.

The study will include seniors in BSW programs in both countries as well as focus group discussions with faculty. YiYi Chen, also a UAlbany Social Welfare alum, joined the study. She is on the faculty at Taiwan National University.

The collaboration among colleagues around the world underscores UAlbany’s commitment to internationalization.

While helping Padjadjaran get to the next level in terms of building post-degree programs and creating field placements for its students, the arrangement helps attract Indonesian students to UAlbany, adds to diversity and benefits SSW.

“We are looking to develop a pipeline of Indonesian students who bring back their social work skills to their home country,” McCarthy said. Student scholars can apply to the Fulbright Scholars program for financial support.

Now that Indonesia has new legislation creating a one-year post bachelor’s social work degree, the two schools are talking about ways to encourage graduates to come to the U.S. in the future to complete the MSW degree and return to Indonesia to teach in this one-year program, which is focused on clinical practice.

McCarthy pointed out that the learning is not a one-way street.

“I saw every day how Indonesian culture is deeply rooted in a sense of family,” she said. “We in the U.S. are more individualistic. In Indonesia, they wouldn’t even think about placing children in foster care because children belong in the community.”

By studying how interwoven communities build strength and solve problems in Indonesia, McCarthy said, we can learn how to beat poverty and strengthen resilience against hardship.

“I’ve learned and gotten so much from being there – it was the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.

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