For the second phase of her Fulbright experience Kerson spent two weeks in France at L’institut Regional du Travail Social (IRTS)which trains social workers for the southernmost tier of France including Provence, Alpilles, Cote d’Azur and Corsica.
In France all social work training is carried out in institutes that are responsible for a particular section of the country. Social workers do not go to university; however faculty members have advanced education in a particular discipline that is important to the social work knowledge base—ethnology, economics, law, etc. The Erasmus Charter for Higher Education encourages internationalization for all higher education in the European Union, so many of the students have practica outside of France in addition to those within the country. All told, IRTS students spend much more time in the field than American social work students do. Kerson met with students returning from countries including Madagascar, Belgiuj, Switzerland, Italy and Chile.
Kerson spent a day at one of the IRTS’s rural campuses outside Marseille where she gave a daylong workshop on epilepsy in mass media. Many of the students were first generation from French speaking African countries. Almost all of the students were very young, and no one could believe that Kerson was still actively involved in the profession after 50 years!!!
During the course of her visit, Kerson interacted with more than 80 students, several professors, many social workers and some clients. She visited several agencies that focus on helping those with profound mental illness. One of the agencies follows the Housing First Program model.
The Fulbright experience was a capstone for Kerson. She thanks several former and present members of Bryn Mawr’s Department of French for their determination and patience. She credits them for her proficiency which enables her to do all of her work in French. Je ne l’aurais jamais cru possible. Merci ‘a vous tous!