Classrooms Crossing Borders

Professor Westy Egmont convenes courses with MSW students in Italy and along the Arizona-Sonora border
Screen shot 2015-09-02 at 10.02.49 AM

Video stills by Sean Casey

We live in a global community that continues to shrink; more and more, all social workers, whether they have a specific interest in working with immigrants or not, will need to understand how increased migration defines the communities in which they serve. Westy Egmont is addressing this reality in his role as a professor, teaching two courses that immerse students in a world defined by fluid international borders. During the summer, he convenes an experience in Italy, the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa. During winter recess, he takes students to the Arizona–Sonora border. The model for the courses: two weeks of intensive on-the-ground inquiry, where students meet with migrants, government officials, and nongovernmental aid workers, while visiting detention centers, border walls, courtrooms, and public offices. Though the courses place a heavy focus on experiential learning, students are also asked to supplement this work with significant reading, and then engage their classmates in informed conversations on immigration. For the Arizona–Sonora class, they also have the opportunity to consult with another invaluable resource, Research Professor Maryanne Loughry, a Jesuit Refugee Service associate director and an expert on refugee resettlement. “We’ve been fortunate to have the remarkable experience of encountering a variety of cultures, and sharing our hopes and challenges with each other, in both Italy and Mexico,” says Egmont. “I feel confident that, as these students graduate from BC and go into careers in social work, they will continue to be open to the kind of dialogue needed to make our world a more accepting and welcoming place.”

Read “A More Welcoming Nation” for Egmont’s take on what we need to do to live up to our country’s history of inclusion. And watch him respond to Obama’s executive action on immigration in this clip from CNN.