College partners with organization

The UH Graduate College of Social Work will be partnering with The Institute of Interfaith Dialog the next three years to promote respect and peace for cultures across the world.

The partnership will provide a way for UH GCSW students and faculty to explore elements of social justice and perform research on issues such as human relations and conditions.

"This partnership provides a unique opportunity for our students to cross cultural borders, enrich their understanding of diversity – which in turn enhances their practice competencies," GCSW Dean Ira Colby said. "It demonstrates the college’s commitment to realize its mission in the promotion of justice by educating individuals for competent, ethical practice."

The Institute of Interfaith Dialog is a non-profit organization that helps individuals learn, understand and communicate with those who have different traditions and beliefs, according to its mission.

"This project demonstrates the college’s commitment to global learning," Colby said. "This is a unique collaboration, and the first of its kind in any American social work program."

Some overall objectives of the partnership include financially assisting students who are conducting research, bringing visiting scholars to offer special topics in the areas of humanities and social sciences, organizing distinguished lecturer and luncheon series and organizing interfaith and intercultural trips, history and social work professor Andrew Achenbaum said.

During the next three years, The Institute of Interfaith Dialog will donate $990,000 to endow a professorship and provide scholarships to students at UH. The scholarships will be provided to both masters and doctoral students in the amount of $10,000 per year for each, going toward travel expenses and funding research done on the living conditions of different cultures, with additional scholarships possibly added in the future.

Planning in regards to scholarship criteria, arranging a schedule of luncheons and establishing which scholars and professors will participate are all under way with no immediate timetable set.

Achenbaum, GCSW liaison for the partnership, said the partnership will provide multiple opportunities for students to broaden their horizons by researching other cultures and traditions.

One way to expand student’s horizons is to take a trip to Turkey – a country that "represents a fascinating bridge between East and West," Achenbaum said.

"There will be research stipends, lectures, opportunities to travel to Turkey, as well as opportunities to interact outside of the classroom over meals," Achenbaum said. "This partnership promises to afford intellectual and financial resources to learn about Islamic cultural traditions and a venue to exchange views with students and faculty."

The partnership will provide "small group discussions and interactions with Turkish faculty and scholars to expand the understanding of Turkey and the mid-east," Colby said.

"It will promote peace and justice, (cornerstones) in the college and the social work profession," he said. "It will open new opportunities for students interested in mid-eastern work."

Alp Aslandogan, vice president of Academic Programs for The Institute of Interfaith Dialog, is confident the partnership will be successful in its attempt to educate students on different cultures by exploring elements that promote peace.

"We will pursue both academic research, as well as grass-roots awareness activities around issues that affect human relations and human conditions by working with UH-GCSW faculty and students," Aslandogan said.

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