A delegation of employees of the ZHAW School of Social Work reports from the visit at Wayne State University School of Social Work in Detroit.
In Detroit, we experienced incredibly exciting days. Detroit is a city of 677’000 inhabitants in the US-state Michigan which has a rich industrial and music history (e.g. Motown, Techno). Detroit experienced a substantial social crisis in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008 and the downturn of the local automobile industry. The city lost a large part of its workforce (and tax payers). For comparison: In 1950 the population was 1’850’000. Examples for the biggest social issues are poverty, unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse or crime.
Already at the sight of our hotel, which was located in three beautiful old brick houses and only few walking minutes away from the building of the School of Social Work, we immediately felt at home. This feeling continued through the days with the faculty of the School of Social Work.
We were particularly impressed by the passion for the (social) work, which was shown by various faculty and social workers. Whether during the visits and exchanges with social workers in the practice institutions, the campus tour with student Morgan, the presentations of the curricula and Grand Challenges or the Social Work Center for Research, the enthusiasm and the love for Detroit was always there. At various occasions like in individual meetings or during dinners and lunches with faculties of the School of Social Work, common topics were discussed with great interest.
Dinner at Dean Brandell’s and his wife’s home was a special highlight of the days in Detroit. With the many faculty members, who attended the dinner, we had lively discussions about politics, social work and the differences of private and professional life in the USA and Switzerland.
The Feet on the Street Detroit Tour with a retired Social Worker led us, after the remodeled city centre, through deserted city areas, to art installations and music bars. The tour gave us an inspiring insight into the diversity of this city and the associated effects of the economic crisis on the lives of its inhabitants.
We once again became aware of the importance of cultivating international relations, especially in the field of social work. Although this can be an intense and challenging task, intercultural exchanges are incredibly valuable and enriching – even if you may find yourself in a panel discussion on social work in Switzerland at a table equipped with microphones at which you feel like a UN representative 🙂 .