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Field Education Office Professional Development Workshop

BSW Cording & MSW Hooding


The Korea program operates with the same curriculum that is used in South Carolina classrooms. The one difference is that translations are provided for the Korean students. Written handouts have one paragraph in English followed by one in Korean. Dr. Choi acts as translator for visiting U.S. professors, and he edits written translations by graduate assistants.

Students enrolling in USC’s Korea-based program are typically older and less likely to be proficient in English than students who travel from Korea to attend schools in the United States.

“Some prospective students are hesitant to come to our program because of their fear of language, even though we tell them everything will be translated,” Dr. Choi said. But once in the classroom, and with the assistance of the translations, they “are able to grasp the course content very well.”

Dr. Choi has been with the program since 1994, and became director in early 2008 just before the U.S. economy collapsed into recession, which hurt Korea’s economy significantly. For the first time since the program was started in 1993, USC was unable to recruit enough students to form a new cohort of graduates. It resumed after only a year’s delay.

Dr. Dennis Poole, who was COSW dean from 2005 to 2011, said the program survived in part because of Dr. Choi’s leadership, the students’ tenacity, and support from the program’s alumni network. “If it weren’t for them and us working together as a team, we might not even have a program right now,” Poole said. “I’m very proud of that program, and the bright light that shines there.”

In a traditional Korean university, students’ success would depend on how closely they listened to their professors’ lectures and how well they memorized their notes. In USC’s program, their success depends more on how well they learn to analyze complex issues through critical thinking, applying theory, and problem solving.

“We emphasize critical thinking,” Dr. Choi said. “The USC program requires students to be more active learners by participating in activities such as presentations and role playing.” Graduates emerge better equipped to help Koreans cope with growing social problems, including a widening income gap, rising homelessness, and a high suicide rate among the elderly stemming from social isolation.

Mr. Kee Yoon, a social worker who runs facilities for youth and for older adults in both Korea and Japan, and whose daughter received her MSW through our program, talked about his views: “Your program has infused a different way of thinking about social work into the country. Your program doesn’t just provide lecture, you teach critical thinking, you encourage discussion, you require demonstrating practice skills. It is excellent.”

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