FHSU social work students communicate with Israeli students in online exchange

Students from Fort Hays State University's Department of Sociology and Social Work and students of the Tel Aviv University School of Social Work's Social Work and Health Program in Israel began Internet-based student discussions March 28 to express their feelings about the war in Iraq.

Nine students and three faculty members from FHSU and eight students and two administrators from Tel Aviv University are participating in the program.

"We developed an online social work exchange," said Patricia Levy, associate professor of social work. "Tel Aviv has a very large social work program."

"The intent," she said, "is to help social workers discover what to do during a war."

The program will continue until the end of May.

During that time, students will have the opportunity to discuss relevant social issues with the students of Tel Aviv University in an effort to expand cultural horizons.

"This is a really good experience with the war in Iraq," Levy said. "Most people aren't aware that there's a lifestyle like this. The Social Work Exchange allows students to get a more clear idea by giving them contacts."

"I thought there was a need for something like this with Sept. 11 and my own background in Israel," Levy said. "This is a good learning experience. The students can share each other's experiences."

The Social Work Exchange began when Levy went to Israel over the summer and talked with Dr. Rena Feigin, director of Bob Shapell School of Social Work at Tel Aviv University, about establishing a program between the two groups of students, especially with the impending war with Iraq.

A Blackboard site called the Social Work Exchange was created to allow students to post messages online and reply to each other's response. An introduction board was also set up that allows students to introduce each other and read a profile about each participant. The students can only post messages and responses in the forums. Due to privacy issues, they cannot chat with each other over an instant messenger service.

The Tel Aviv students are older than the students at FHSU, Levy said. Once Israeli students graduate high school, they immediately serve in the army. Men are enlisted for three years and women for two years. After military service, students may try to enroll in a college.

"Education is not so much a right as it is a privilege," Levy said. Majors only have certain slots open for students to study in that field for a specific job. "They start weeding students out at an early age," she said.

This is the first formal communication between Tel Aviv University students and FHSU students.

Do to a confidentiality agreement between social workers, the students involved cannot be named.

"Americans are facing a lot of things for the fist time that the Israeli people have faced for a long time," Levy said. "It's a really interesting learning situation for both students here and at Tel Aviv."

There are no plans for continuing the program next semester or for allowing students who are not in the social work program to talk with students at Tel Aviv.

However, Levy said, "We do have the Blackboard site still established."

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