Abstract: Reflections of Global Citizenship from Community Engaged Study Abroad Experience (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

458P Reflections of Global Citizenship from Community Engaged Study Abroad Experience

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Stacy Moak, PhD, Professor, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Tina Reuter, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Institute for Human Rights, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Background and Purpose: The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the impact of a community engaged study abroad experience on student’s perceptions of their role as global citizens. Universities have begun to include concepts of global citizenship in their mission statements. Social workers acknowledge challenges of working in a changing and complex social environment in which global issues often have local impacts. While research is limited in social work, the concept of world citizenship stretches back to the Ancient Greek philosophers and generally describes persons with a sense of responsibility and obligation to other; who see the world as their home; and who hold values of openness, tolerance, and support for the rights of others. These characteristics reflect social work ethical principles; however, understanding the ways in which social workers attain the lens of global citizenship are not well studied. Participants in this study were students in a social work service learning course that included study abroad in Kenya. They prepared and delivered workshops in response to the requests of community partners in Kenya. Specific research question: Did community engagement in Kenya influence students' perceptions of global citizenship?

Methods: This project employed the qualitative process of Photovoice to understand students’ perceptions of themselves as global citizens.Prior to departure, students reflected on the meaning of global citizenship. While in country, they were encouraged to take photographs that depicted their role as global citizens. Upon returning to the classroom, each student was asked to bring 1 to 3 pictures to class and to discuss how the pictures depicted their roles as global citizens. Student submitted the pictures and a short paragraph describing the mean/significance of each picture to the professors. We then analyzed the predeparture understanding about global citizenship with the photos and captions to create an analysis of the transformative learning that evolved through service learning and active engagement with the Maasai ethnic community in Kenya.

Results: Results indicate that students began to view themselves and their role as global citizens more broadly and more concretely after the trip. While most students had some vague understanding of themselves in relation to the world prior to the experience, that understanding evolved into a more concrete definition of relationships and long-term commitments after the experience. Students reflected on photographs of “being wrapped in Maasai shuka as being welcomed into the community” to describe how they felt participating in daily lives of a different community. Other photos showed them being taught bead work from Maasai women, sitting by the fire with locals, and participating in local dances. The photos, captions, and discussions demonstrate the importance of building relationships with people, of sharing stories, and of spending time immersed in a different culture.


Conclusion: Community engagement is critical to developing an understanding of global citizenship. While reading about the concept and studying about the concept gives social work students a general understanding of global citizenship, engaging with cultures in meaningful ways makes those concepts concrete and transformative.