Professor receives Fulbright to travel to Vietnam

Andrew Calnon April 10, 2014 0

Dr. Margaret “Peggy” McFarland, professor of social work, has received an award which will allow her to share her expertise in Vietnam for an entire year.

McFarland applied for a Fulbright for the second time in August of 2013; her application was reviewed and later accepted in the United States. Her application was then sent to Vietnam to be reviewed. About two weeks ago, McFarland was notified that she has been selected to receive the award.

McFarland, who has been a practicing social worker for over 30 years, specializes in the field of aging. McFarland will use her Fulbright scholarship in Vietnam. “I became interested in the culture and the practice of social work in Vietnam because I have been fortunate enough to have participated in four short-term humanitarian trips to Vietnam,” McFarland said.

Currently, Vietnam is experiencing problems with the aging population and is struggling to provide services to help them. Since McFarland has a professional background in geriatrics, she promoted the idea that she would work with the Vietnam communities and help assess what their needs are for the elderly population. “My plan is to focus on the growing needs of the geriatric population in Vietnam and the accompanying need for trained geriatric social workers,” she said.

McFarland will also be teaching social work classes at the Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities. She hopes to help them develop their social work curriculum by adding geriatrics into their program; the study of geriatrics is not common in social work programs around the world. She also hopes to develop their social work staff as a whole. Social work is a relatively new profession in Vietnam and is beginning to expand.

The country doesn’t have many professional social workers with a lot of experience, so one of McFarland’s goals is to increase the number of social workers. McFarland also plans to spend time in the community presenting seminars and workshops to different agencies to help social work students find field placements.

One of the challenges that McFarland will face abroad is the language barrier. Vietnamese students are taught English in high school and are expected to know English at the university, but she expects there will still be comprehension challenges. She will be teaching her course work in English, because the university believes it is important for the social work students to learn in this language. “It will be important to be aware of the students’ different cultural backgrounds when teaching,” McFarland said. As for McFarland’s Vietnamese knowledge, she will be taking classes while completing her time abroad as well as consistently practicing over the summer.

McFarland believes she is going to add more depth to their social work program. She will be providing them with background on actual practice skills as well as adding her geriatric expertise to their curriculum. While in Vietnam, McFarland also hopes to do some networking between the Vietnam National University and Etown. She would love to see more exchanges happen and have some of their students attend Etown. She hopes to explore the national social work movement and define what it means in other countries. Vietnam and Etown are both associated with Brittany’s Hope, and McFarland hopes to get more insight on the organization while abroad and expand their relationship so that Etown students and faculty can reach more orphanages on their short-term trip in May.

The U.S. Congress established the Fulbright Program in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The purpose of the program is to create a mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide and provided approximately 318,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach or conduct research in each other’s countries and exchange ideas.

McFarland is one of approximately 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2014-2015. “The College has been very supportive,” McFarland said. “It’s an honor for the College, and it’s something they are very pleased about.”

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