The School of Social Work is developing an interdisciplinary research center that will specialize in giving aid to countries with limited resources.
Gina Chowa, a professor at the School of Social Work, said the school has worked in five countries so far, including South Africa and Zambia.
“We’ve had a team that works in different countries on economic security, health disparities, education, mental health, HIV/AIDS,” Chowa said. “So we already have relationships in these five countries, so this center is really formalizing that and formalizing the partnerships.”
Carol Tresolini, vice provost for academic initiatives, said center’s approval is a two-step process.
Chowa has been given permission to plan the program and will later submit a request to establish the center, Tresolini said.
Jack Richman, dean of the School of Social Work, said the research center plans to have a global focus.
“We’re really trying to take some of the technology and information that we have here, figure out what works over there, test it, see if it’s valuable for them to address some of the poverty problems that they have over there,” Richman said. ” And what we learn, we bring back here and use it to address our own problems, certainly, in the area of vulnerable populations and impoverished populations.”
Richman said Chowa is a prominent researcher in international social work.
“She’s looking at sustainability. She’s looking at poverty and education, alleviation of poverty, educating young people in sustainable kinds of positions where they can move forward,” he said.
Richman said this project is important because the School of Social Work has a duty to work with vulnerable populations.
“They’re dealing with HIV, food insecurity, poverty, huge sanitation issues, family planning, and it’s an important part of the world,” he said. “We’re a global university, so it’s important because these people need assistance.”
Richman said another positive byproduct of the project is the information researchers can bring back home and communicate across the United States.
“It’s important work because ultimately it’s gonna help not only the population we’re working with — whether it’s South Africa or Kenya — but it also has the benefit of bringing that information back home and seeing how that works here,” Richman said. “It’s really reciprocal.”
Richman said the UNC-system Board of Governors will be voting on the approval around the beginning of the fiscal year.
“Our hope is that we’ll get approval around the beginning of this fiscal year, which would be after July 1,” Richman said.
Richman said the research center will attract positive recognition for UNC.
“We will be making a major impact on important problems globally,” Richman said. “The name of UNC will be plastered on all that we do out there.”