New International Course: Trauma Through the Lifecycle

Twenty-two students from the NYU Silver School of Social Work will be traveling to Jerusalem during the winter intersession as part of the new course Trauma through the Lifecycle: An International Perspective.

The course is being held from January 5-14, and for two days students will attend an international conference entitled, "Trauma through the Lifecycle from a Strengths-Based Perspective: An International Dialogue," co-hosted by NYU Silver and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Conference topics will range from trauma related to interpersonal violence to wars to natural disasters, and includes a visit to the renowned Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma. The impact of trauma on clinicians, known as secondary trauma, will also be addressed. The conference planning committee was comprised of Professor S. Lala A. Straussner and Clinical Professor and Assistant Dean of Field Learning and Community Partnerships Helle Thorning, and faculty from the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at Hebrew University. Straussner served as a committee co-chair.

The idea for the course grew out of the conference, which originated last winter when Straussner visited a number of schools of social work in Israel in order to explore opportunities for international collaboration. According to Straussner, who developed the course together with Thorning, "All of our students deal with traumatized populations. It doesn't matter where they are placed or with what age groups they are working. So we thought it would be good to develop a new course addressing trauma through the lifecycle."

Besides taking part in the conference, students will attend classroom lectures. They will also have the opportunity to explore the city by meeting a local family; taking in some local sights, including the Old City of Jerusalem; and attending a variety of cultural activities.

"Many of our students are interested in international social work and getting involved in a global way," said Thorning. "It is incredibly hard to understand the issues in a different part of the world unless you have been there meeting and talking to people about their lives, tasting the food, learning about the history and culture, and smelling the air."

Among the students signed up for the course is Christopher Jadotte, MSW '14. The course appealed to Jadotte because he is always interested in applying his education and social awareness to better understand a country he is visiting and its culture. "I believe this class gives authentic life experience and applicable insight to a topic of interest, not only in my desired field, but to a conflict that continues to grab the world community."

Katherine Nesbeda, MSW/Executive MPA '14, wants to work with immigrant and refugee populations, where trauma often needs to be addressed. She has previously worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has seen first hand the societal impact of chronic violence. She said, "I am eager to understand how wide-scale trauma can be addressed in order to reduce its impact on the functioning of a society."

Namratta Kaushal, MSW '12 -- who plans to pursue a career in the field of human rights -- has traveled to Israel before. "Some of us cope with trauma better than others, and then there are those who challenge, fight, and face it with dignity, strength, and resilience. Israel is a place that is home to people like that," she said. "I've great respect and admiration for the country and its people."

Kaushal hopes she will better understand how Israelis deal with personal loss and the political, social, and emotional stress in their lives, as well as learn the latest in post-traumatic stress from global and an international perspective.Ultimately, Straussner and Thorning hope students will bring back what they learn about Israel and what they hear from international researchers, educators, and practitioners, and incorporate this new information into their knowledge base and practice in New York.