Frequently Asked Questions for Social Work Faculty


What makes USP@UCU different than other international BSW field placements?

  • SAFETY: The Uganda Studies Program at UCU (formerly a BestSemester program of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities) began in partnership with Uganda Christian University in 2004.  Over the years, USP@UCU has grown into a robust program grounded in the community. Our number one priority is the safety and well-being of students. Within this priority, we have established and maintain adherence to safety guidelines and protocols for students, a crisis-management plan, and consistent and frequent communication with sending schools. For more information or copies of these documents, please contact us.
  • SUPPORT: Field placements with one single organization rather than through an established program can often lead to isolation of students, which can create frustration for all involved. At USP@UCU we encourage and foster immersion within the culture, but balance these intense experiences with support from fellow USP@UCU students and staff, as well as Ugandan supervisors who prioritize the support and supervision of USP students. One key support component is the inclusion of USP@UCU Program Assistants who live in the dorms with students, and (like Program Coordinators) are available 24/7.
  • PARTNERSHIPS: Another unique aspect of USP@UCU is the partnerships that we have established and nurtured over time.  These partnerships include Uganda Christian University’s Social Work and Social Administration Department, host families in the community, and practicum sites.  We view these partnerships as the foundation of effective learning in this context.
  • UTILIZATION OF CULTURAL HUMILITY & ASSET-BASED SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION FRAMEWORKS: Creating mutually-beneficial partnerships between North American students and Ugandan supervisors/coworkers requires an awareness of power dynamics and guidance from seasoned professionals to navigate these challenges well. The Social Work Emphasis, and the larger Uganda Studies Program at Uganda Christian University, seeks to posture students for these important cross-cultural learning experiences in ways that produce effective outcomes for all involved, and learning that can be utilized in future cross-cultural engagements. (Sossou & Dubus, 2013).
  • OTHER USP@UCU LEARNING COMPONENTS:  The Social Work Emphasis is embedded in the larger USP@UCU which includes a core course, Faith and Action, which guides students through their semester through an experiential learning pedagogy. USP@UCU opportunities may also include Rural Homestays, a weekend trip to Northern Uganda, a 10-day learning trip to Rwanda, among others.
  • VARIOUS PLACEMENT OPPORTUNITIES TO CHOOSE FROM: USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis currently has partnerships with over 20 different social service organizations that serve populations ranging from orphans and vulnerable children to the elderly. Students work with the Social Work Coordinator to find the best fit for their specific interests and professional goals.
  • JOINT SUPERVISION: To gain the most from this cross-cultural context, students are supervised by both an MSW American supervisor and their on-site Ugandan social work supervisor. Learning about the field of social work from both of these perspectives is a unique opportunity and is key in helping students learn and practice effectively across cultures. Additionally, having an in-country field liaison who holds an MSW from a CSWE accredited university exceeds CSWE supervision expectations, eases the work of Field Directors, ensures the flow of communication needed for a successful learning experience, and minimizes the language and cultural barriers that can be problematic in international social work education efforts.

What are the placement opportunities through USP@UCU?

You can find the current practicum partners on our Social Work Emphasis page.

How do you partner with placement organizations to ensure quality social work field education?

  • We have placed USP@UCU interns at many of our partner organizations for over 15 years. These long-standing relationships with local organizations have helped us develop learning opportunities for students within mutually-beneficial partnerships. We also recognize that this is an ongoing pursuit, which is the reason for continual communication with field supervisors, sharing of ideas, orientations and trainings, and semester site visits.
  • We have a Social Work Supervisor Advisory Committee made up of Ugandan field supervisors that we gain feedback from on a regular basis.
  • Together with the social work department at Uganda Christian University, we host an annual 2 full day, competency-based supervision training that is required for all social work supervisors.
  • Also within our partnership with UCU, we are beginning to host continuing education events and trainings to share ideas and build the capacity of local organizations. In June 2018, we hosted a training on caregiver-child attachment.

Is this program only for students interested in international social work practice?

While USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis holds unique appeal for those students who are interested in international social work, the value of working with and living among people who are different is an invaluable opportunity for ALL social work students. Teaching and preparing students to work effectively among difference, especially regarding culture, race, and faith, is an increasingly important aspect of social work education (Mathiesen and Lager, 2007). Giving students the support and guidance through the countless learning opportunities that exist in this context is a priority of the Social Work Emphasis.Another priority is then helping students translate what they have learned to a North American context.

Many of my students are interested in practicing in a domestic setting, how do you help students translate their experience to a North American context?

  • In our goal of partnering effectively with North American social work programs, we integrate CSWE Core Competencies into the experiential learning pedagogy. We do this more formally through the learning agreement/contract and evaluation process and informally through seminar discussions throughout the semester. Student’s weekly journals are required to mention how they are currently learning about and integrating at least one competency in their field placement. Additionally, the Case Presentation and Summary that is required of each student in the seminar course also helps students to examine the theory that applies to practice, and articulate their learning through a social work education lens.
  • The final paper and class time within the seminar course encourages students to intentionally think through their return to a North American social work practice context. During this time in the semester students are asked how they would present what they have learned to a future employer using case examples from their experience, as well as working with the Social Work Coordinator on their resume.
  • Student’s involvement with the Cross-Cultural Social Work Group on campus also helps them to distinguish and process the similarities and differences in social work practice in North America and Uganda.
  • The translation of students’ experiences is a primary focus of the social work seminar course. These conversations are guided by their MSW Supervisor and Seminar Instructor who has both domestic and international practice experience. Learning from both of these contexts helps students connect the dots between field experience and North American practice. For more on the importance of this translation, click for the SWE article in the June 2018 USP Newsletter.
  • Our annual trainings and long-standing partnerships with Ugandan social work supervisors has also proved extremely beneficial in helping students translate their Ugandan field experience to competency development and a common, universal language of social work. Not only are students learning about this translation in seminar now, but also (and, arguable, more effectively) at their field sites under the guidance of their Ugandan supervisor.

Are students prepared for subsequent internships, MSW programs, or professional social work practice as a result of their participation in USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis?

  • While more research should be done on the impact of the SWE on future practice, the informal feedback we receive from students has been extremely encouraging. In preparation for our presentation at the CSWE APM in 2017, we conducted a qualitative survey among USP-SWE alumni. Click to see the highlights of this survey.
  • According to a survey of 228 accredited social work programs in 2013, students benefitted from international field placements through increased interest in global social work, expanded opportunities for students, and exposure to diverse cultures (Hunter & Hollis, 2013, p. 8-9)

How do you ensure that the program fulfills the standards of sending schools?

  • We highly value and invest in our partnerships with sending schools. These partnerships have helped the SWE to develop into a program that many schools see as an extension of their own. When you send a student to USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis, you will be in contact with the Social Work Coordinator who works hard to ensure that your program’s requirements and goals are fulfilled within the student’s experience with USP@UCU. We communicate regularly throughout the semester, making sure that our communication with students is in-line with yours, as this has proven to be an essential element of a successful student experience. Our goal is to be flexible with sending schools while also communicating clearly what we have found to be the most beneficial for USP student learning and partnerships on the ground.All operating within CSWE standards has helped us achieve successful partnerships with all current sending schools.
  • From the inception of the Social Work Emphasis, we have incorporated a Faculty Advisory Committee made up of Program/Field Directors from various North American schools. Currently our advisory committee is comprised of faculty from Messiah College, Asbury University, Southeastern University, and Belmont University.
  • USP@UCU’s Social Work Coordinator attends and has presented at the Council for Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting every other year.This has helped the USP@UCU stay informed, respond to, and contribute to the growth of North American social work education. Learn more about USP@UCU’s presentations, here.

How do your students learn about social work in Uganda?

  • Every day in Uganda helps the student learn more about effective practice in this context. As students resolve conflicts with their African roommates, have conversations in the dining hall about race, religion, and culture with fellow Ugandan peers, attend church with their Mukono host family, observe the gender roles of their rural host family, and take classes that process through all of these experiences, students learn about the culture that they are working within, which leads to more effective practice outcomes.
  • More intentionally, students learn under the supervision of an experienced, Ugandan social work supervisor. They meet with this supervisor at least weekly, but often shadow and work alongside him/her every day.The relationships that develop with supervisors and coworkers is one that produces the greatest learning for SWE students about what social work looks like in this context, and more importantly, how the tools of the profession can be utilized towards effective solutions in contexts around in the world.
  • As part of the SWE, students take part in a Cross-Cultural Social Work Group at UCU. This group meets at least 3 times a semester to share experiences, ideas, and insights about the social work profession in various practice contexts.

How do you recommend that I best prepare and debrief students who conduct their field placement through USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis?

  • Perhaps the three greatest virtues that you can look for when selecting students for USP@UCU and/or encourage them in as they prepare to come to Uganda is humility, flexibility, and fortitude.
  • Humility: As was mentioned, Cultural Humility is not only a concept but what we see as a necessary framework for the semester. Within this framework is the focus of coming and maintaining a perspective of a learner. Being a learner is inherent in being a student so many see this as a given and maybe even easy, but it is much more difficult to maintain this posture when ideas, beliefs, and even identities are challenged within a different context. Cultural humility is even more important to maintain when students are from North America working in the Global South, given structural power imbalances and global social injustices at play. This is a semester of learning under the expertise of local authorities who have much to teach us.
  • Flexibility: Like humility, we have found that students that can maintain a posture of flexibility throughout the semester are the most successful. This includes everything from being flexible with the time that something is planned to happen to flexibility of expectations.  Through this guided program, students have the opportunity to acknowledge both explicit and implicit expectations as they become apparent throughout the semester, and then are challenged to take the next step to adjust those expectations to match the reality. When students are able to adjust their expectations, from our experience, they end up learning a great deal more than what they could even imagine.  This process takes the ability to communicate openly with the supervisors and hosts around them who are here to support them through this difficult process.
  • Fortitude: To spend a semester in Uganda is rarely easy, but always worth it. Even for those students with international experience, the duration and the intentional immersive learning experiences that USP@UCU pushes students into can lead to tremendous growth but requires hard work – both internal work and physical stamina, often which comes from a passion to be here. The deeper lessons of this experience can sometimes be missed, at least in part, if determination and resilience aren’t applied throughout the semester. The good news is that students have a very supportive staff and fellow learners along the way that can help them get the most from living and working in Uganda.


Are there other ways to partner with UCU’s Social Work Department?

Yes! There are opportunities to conduct joint research, faculty exchanges, trainings, and co-teaching online courses. Please contact the Social Work Coordinator for more information about these exciting professional development opportunities.

Does USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis fulfill the accreditation requirements of my school?

  • While every social work program is slightly different in their curriculum and requirements, CSWE provides a helpful framework that USP@UCU seeks to understand and comply with.Having a supervisor and field liaison with an MSW from an accredited university who lives and works from within Uganda is one significant way that we uphold the high standards of sending schools.
  • In our goal of partnering effectively with North American social work programs, we integrate CSWE Core Competencies into the experiential learning pedagogy. We do this more formally through the learning agreement/contract and evaluation process and informally through seminar discussions throughout the semester. Student’s weekly journals are required to mention how they are currently learning about and integrating at least one competency in their field placement. Additionally, the Case Presentation and Summary that is required of each student in the seminar course also helps students to examine the theory that applies to practice, and articulate their learning through a social work education lens.
  • To maximize the social work learning, students take an accompanying seminar that is facilitated by USP@UCU’s Social Work Coordinator.We have found this seminar to be a key component in students’ ability to connect theory with practice, integrate competencies, discuss and understand cross-cultural challenges, increase self-awareness and cultural humility, and provide in-country support from peers, a social work professional with both domestic and African-based practice experience, and a program assistant who is a former USP social work student.This seminar can and should replace home campus seminars in order to best support student growth and learning while in Uganda.
  • To learn how other Field Directors from accredited universities have described their partnership with USP@UCU to fulfill their accreditation requirements, connect with our Social Work Faculty Advisory Committee members.

How do we coordinate our required student documents and assignments?

  • USP@UCU is designed to be an extension of your school, offering flexibility and support to you in ways that are helpful and work towards the best field learning possible for your student in this context.
  • Contact the Social Work Coordinator to receive the USP@UCU required student documents and assignments. We find that there is almost always a lot of overlap in our curriculum, so in the best interest of the students, it is important to ensure that we are minimizing, or hopefully eliminating, any assignment duplication. In most school partnerships, the USP@UCU documents and seminar/field assignments will satisfy or even exceed US-based program requirements. But in some cases, additional assignments are given to students by their home program in order to fulfill their school’s requirements. It’s important to talk through any additional assignments or requirements with the Social Work Coordinator, as some assignments may need to be adjusted to fit the context, may not be in the best interest of USP students and/or practicum partners, or not possible due to time, energy, or resources available.
  • Evaluations: Even if your school requires an online evaluation or paper-based evaluation that measures different components than that of USP@UCU, we find it best for our partner supervisors (together with the Social Work Coordinator) to complete the USP@UCU Student Learning Agreement and Evaluation Document, and either the sending school or the Social Work Coordinator can interpret the results if your school requires a different version.  This additional step can be time-consuming, but possible if it is a non-negotiable requirement.


What semesters do you accept students?

Spring and Fall

Do you have a summer program?

No, our program is designed for a 12 week field placement experience.

What year in school do you accept?

Sophomore, juniors and seniors; however, juniors and seniors are preferred because they come with more theory preparation for field work and Seminar course.

How many field hours can students obtain through USP’s Social Work Emphasis?

Sophomore/Junior field placement: 150 hours
Senior field placement: 400 hours (though up to 450 through coordination with Social Work Coordinator)

We don’t have a required sophomore and/or junior placement. What benefit is it to my students who are interested in USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis their sophomore or junior year?

USP@UCU alumni feedback reveals that students were more prepared for their senior field placements because they conducted a sophomore or junior placement in Uganda. They learned basic practice skills including utilizing supervision (coming prepared for meetings, communicating with, receiving feedback, making changes based on feedback, etc.), taking initiative, observing the functioning of an organization and a social worker’s role within it, completing a competency-based learning contract/agreement, etc. All foundational learning that they utilized in later domestic placements and their career in social work. Interested to read more student feedback? Click here!

Can students take online classes while studying through USP@UCU?

It is possible, and some have done this in order to study abroad, but it is not recommended due mainly to the intensity of the semester, but also because of internet challenges and time differences.  Please contact the Social Work Coordinator for more details about this.


Can non-BSW students take part in USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis?

  • At times we may accept a non-BSW student into the sophomore/junior level Social Work Emphasis because their school does not have a BSW but they are interested in pursuing an MSW. This is dependent on the enrollment the semester the student applies and decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • We usually recommend USP@UCU’s Cross-Cultural Practicum class to non-BSW students which includes an internship, but without the social work specific framework.

What other schools have sent students to USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis?

Click here for a list of schools who have sent students to USP@UCU’s Social Work Emphasis.


Do you have a limit to how many students can come to US@UCU through one school?

No, not currently. However, if you are interested in a more formalized partnership with USP@UCU, please contact the Social Work Coordinator.

  • A great first step is for the student to read through the information provided on our website and direct them to our application page. Once the student is accepted into the program, more information will be given to them about how to prepare for their semester in Uganda.About 6 weeks before the student arrives, they will begin an email dialogue with the Social Work Coordinator to find the best practicum fit.
  • Feel free to contact the Social Work Coordinator at any point in this process if you have any questions or need to coordinate program requirements.

When should students apply?

  • We have a rolling admission process, so students are able to apply as soon as the applications for the semester intending to enroll are available, which is usually about a year in advance.
  • It is recommended that students apply as early as possible but at least 3-4 months in advance. This is especially true if applying for the Spring semester, which holds a greater chance of filling up.
Uganda Studies Program at Uganda Christian University