Silver School Faculty Travel to Shanghai for Conference on Changing Urban Life

Faculty from the NYU Silver School of Social Work traveled to Shanghai in October to take part in the first annual international symposium on urban society. Organized by The School for Social Development and The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, both at East China Normal University, the conference examined urgent and emerging social issues in urban China.

Themes addressed at the conference were divided into five categories -- sociology, demographic studies, social work, anthropology, and folklore science -- mirroring the five departments at the School of Social Development. Presentation topics included urbanization and rural-urban migration, social change and life restructuring in cities, and urban folklore and cultural tradition.

Dean Lynn Videka presented on "The Settlement House Approach: American Social Work Communities," tracing the history of settlement houses in the United States. Videka discussed today's settlement houses and their focus on individual wellness and prevention, community well-being and advancement, ethnic sensitivity, and their utilization of innovative programs. As the number of immigrants has increased over the last 40 years in the United States, the settlement house approach has garnered renewed interest. Videka said this approach may be culturally compatible with Chinese cultural and may be worth exploring for delivering urban social services. Others presenting in the area of social work looked at issues such as single parent families, Chinese parenting, and adolescent problem behavior.

With Videka, Silver School faculty members Wen-Jui Han, Yuhwa Eva Lu, and Tazuko Shibusawa attended the conference, held October 22-24. Besides its social work angle, the conference was of particular interest to the Silver School as NYU has announced plans to establish a new portal campus in Shanghai in partnership with East China Normal University. The campus is scheduled to open in 2013.

Increasing the country's social workers tenfold over the next decade is a major initiative for the Chinese government. Han observed that the social work movement still appears to be looking at large-scale concepts and has yet to move to the practical, practice side. "People are starting to question what is the appropriate model of practice and policy for China and not just following other countries," she said. "They are eager to learn about other cultures if they are facing issues that can be applied to Chinese culture."