Project Bosnia and Herzegovina: International Service Learning and Social Work

My departure for Bosnia and Herzegovina is fast approaching. With 3 class sessions at DU, participants in this year’s 8-week international service learning experience in Bosnia have the opportunity to learn about one another and build a historical context around the Balkan Wars and genocide. In-class discussions are often overwhelming, revealing the despair and pain continually endured by the Bosnian people. However, as I personally prepare for an international internship and begin to understand the complexities of the human spirit, specifically the resilience that propels people forward in their lives, I am excited to engage in a learning process grounded in individual and community experience.

From readings, film clips, and images, Sarajevo appears to be a vibrant community, touting a coffee culture, cobblestone roads, and mountain greenery. Though Bosnia’s recent conflict leaves an unsettling feeling and uncertainty of how to tread in a culturally responsive way, maintaining focus on the totality of human experience, a holistic perspective that enables me to understand human experience in all of its relationships and connections, reminds me to be open to and aware of those facets of Bosnian life that maintain and create meaning.

I am excited to begin my learning journey in Bosnia, with local Sarajevans, fellow classmates, and the broader environment. It is an opportunity to explore how I, as a social worker, fit into the international community. It is also an opportunity to grow as an individual, to simply be, and develop social, emotional, and physical connections with my surroundings.

Check out the following Lonely Planet video about Sarajevo:



University of Denver (DU) is a great place for returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) to pursue their Master’s, regardless of the education focus; although, DU’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) is host to one of the largest assemblies of RPCVs on campus – only second to the international school.

In addition to having the ability of forming an intimate unity of RPCVs in each respective college, there is a campus wide RPCV family called the Peace Corps Community (PCC).  This organization is designed to fulfill Peace Corps’ third goal, and they do it in a fun way.  Also, RPCV applicants that demonstrated the highest quality of service can be considered for the Peace Corps fellowship offered in the GSSW program.  For more information on this, visit and click on the MSW admission tab on the left – you will find the Peace Corps tab under this heading.  Good luck.

Denver Family Institute and GSSW

As many of you may have noticed, GSSW offers tons of ways for you to customize your MSW degree. These offerings are there in conjunction to the multitude of internship opportunities to give you specialized knowledge in areas that you are interested in practicing once you have graduated.

A list of certificates can be found at:

I specifically have been interested in the Animal Assisted Social Work Certificate. That is what I came to DU to pursue. Little did I know that I could also go after another certificate (not all will allow you to do two, so please check to see if your interest allows you to go after two certificates). After spending a lot of time in the classroom and time in the field I have decided that Families and Couples are my favorite population. They are who I want to work with in a clinical setting after graduation. DU’s joint program with Denver Family Institute (DFI)  is a great way to get additional specialized training and intense supervision in that particular area. This last weekend I spent 6 hours on Saturday interviewing for the few slots they hold open for GSSW students. Luckily, I got one!!

This means that during my concentration year I will be taking classes at DU and at DFI. I will have two sets of supervision each week and will be working directly with clients, honing my skills as a couples and family therapist. When I am done with my classes at DFI (one day a week for an additional year after GSSW graduation). I will have all the classes required to take the LMFT exam (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) along with hours clocked toward my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). Talk about kill two birds with one stone. I am beyond thrilled!

If you have an interest in working with couples and families, I urge you to look into the DFI/DU program offered here at GSSW. It is a unique learning experience that adds focus and richness to your educational experience at GSSW!

Visit DFI’s Website here:

Happy Trails!


The Morning After……..oh wait, actually a week later

  • I see some student blogs about the Field Fair that was held last week which signals our official start to the internship search for next academic year.  Since then, all of our current first year students and our incoming Advanced Standing students have started interviewing for next year’s internships.  A few students have found a match but most are still setting up interviews and meeting potential supervisors.  At the same time our incoming first year students have also started their search.  It’s probably safe to say that it is a rare agency in Denver who is not interviewing students for next year’s internships.  If you have decided to come to GSSW and have deposited then you should have heard from our field department about setting up a meeting with one of us.  (If you deposited 45 seconds ago then it might be a day or two before you hear from us so hang tight).

    Because this is the season for internship searching, we continue to partner with new agencies.  Last week brought 10 new agencies to our attention, including clinical sites as well as community internships with some of the highest ranking MSWs in the state.  This week we have several more new agencies to visit. When we are out in the community meeting with potential internship agencies, we are always reminded of the social work dedication that is out there in our agencies and organizations.  Somebody (a lawyer)  recently said to me that he thinks social workers are one of the few remaining groups of people who do things for the right reasons……..I think that is quite a compliment for our profession, don’t you?

    While it is always exciting to partner with new agencies, it is also always a treat to see our current agencies at Field Fair.  How we manage to fit almost 150 agencies into one place with all of our continuing students is an event-planning feat that could only be accomplished by Andy, our Field Program Administrator.  It has come to our attention many times that we are the “Ann & Andy” show and we are often asked where our Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls are–not the most original joke but anyway….  This question took new meaning at the end of Field Fair when our colleague David Rossi took pictures of the field team for the GSSW archives.   Included in these pictures, as you can see, are the newest members of the field team–Raggedy Ann & Andy.  For the first pictures taken, Andy & I weren’t available so David used the dolls as “place holders” for us–I’m not sure what to think about that but nevertheless…David tells us that these were his dolls from his childhood and that he always was afraid of them.  We have assured  him that we all have family-of-origin issues to deal with and hopefully he can now begin to put his fear of dolls behind him–he didn’t sound too optimistic about this but we’ll see.

    We are very serious about helping students in the internship search process but we also know that in social work, a little laughter goes a long way toward keeping us all going.

    We’d love to have you stop by the field office if you are visiting GSSW.  You will be greeted by the real Ann & Andy, as well as the rest of our team.


    Director of Field Education Graduates Mainstream Square Dance Class

    In addition to the passion for and serious work of social work education, GSSW’s staff and faculty are also engaged members of the Denver community in many different ways. Associate Clinical Faculty and Director of Field Education, Ann Petrila, recently graduated from the mainstream level of square dancing1 with the Rocky Mountain Rainbeaus ( – a local Denver-area LGBTQA high energy square dance club that is inclusive of straight dancers as well. Here she is shown with friend and fellow Rainbeau, Leo Gross, being silly at her graduation. Congratulations, Ann!

    1Modern square dancing is much more than your 8th grade physical education classes’ allemande left and do-si-do. There are numerous levels (mainstream, plus, advanced, and challenge), with hundreds of calls that must be learned. For example, the mainstream level of square dancing alone has 69 different calls with some calls having three and four different variations for a total of 92 different permutations on those calls.

    Rockies Opening Weekend

    Coors Field has an absolutely AMAZING view of the mountains!

    Last weekend was Rockies opening weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors field and we couldn’t have asked for better weather!  I went to the Saturday evening game with some friends and it was a sunny 70 degrees–definite t-shirt weather even though it was only the beginning of April.

    Rockie’s games are amazing for several reasons:

    • The view from the stadium is absolutely stunning–I watched the sun set behind the snow-covered mountains while enjoying a great baseball game!
    • Tickets are super cheap!  You can sit in the rock pile (which is in the outfield) for only $4 per person ($1 for kids and seniors).
    • The fans are extremely excited to be there–the wave went around the entire stadium at least 5 or 6 times!

    I definitely plan to go to as many Rockies games as I possibly can this season because it was a great way to spend a relaxing evening with my friends!  So if you’re looking for something fun to do when you’re visiting or once you move here, make sure to check out the Rockies!

    Gooooooooooo Rockies!!!!
    Beautiful backdrop for the game!
    So happy to be at the game!

    “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”-Roger Caras

    Moving out to Colorado for school has been one of the best choices I could have made, not just because Colorado is a gorgeous state, but because the opportunities have been unlike those I’ve ever found.  Here at DU we have the Animal Assisted Social Work certificate that you can pursue during your second year, which I am now doing and interviewing for internships where I would be able to use animals in a clinical setting.  One of the ways that I will be able to do that is to be be placed with a therapy dog that I will train and become it’s handler through an organization here in Denver called Freedom Service Dogs.  You can check out there website here:, where you can see that this group trains service dogs and dogs for veterans, as well as therapy dogs for the dogs that do not qualify to be a service dogs (if they wouldn’t be strong enough to help balance someone for example).  Each dog is a rescue dog, which means that they save an animal life which will then help “save” a human life.


    Since the  Animal Assisted Social Work program at DU has such strong connections with agencies like Freedom Service Dogs, there is actually a grant that supports DU students being placed with a dog and trained through Freedom Service Dogs for free, and students can then also use their dogs in the classroom.  I have not been placed with a dog yet, but I’ve started the application process and am eagerly awaiting the news of who my new 4 legged friend will be!  Just another example of the amazing opportunities here at GSSW!

    Returning to School After Playing the Field

    At GSSW there seems to be a pretty balanced population of students who came straight to graduate school from undergraduate and those folks that have been working in the field for anywhere from 1 year to 25 years.  From my perspective, there are benefits to both and both groups have a lot to offer classroom discussions, each having a different perspective on those populations that we will serve.


    As a student that worked for a number of years before returning to graduate school, I find that those people that have worked tend to have had their “perfect world” bubble burst long before now.  When you enter the field of social work, regardless of what you studied as an undergraduate, there is a definite period of time when you realize how little you were taught about the reality of the world we live in and the work that we will do as social workers.  You are provided with a new lens through which to look at the clients we serve, the challenges facing non-profits and the discrepancies between the goal of public policy and their actual outcomes.


    I value the time I spent in the workforce and feel that I’m a better graduate student because of it.  It allowed me to find out what I didn’t want to do as a professional social worker and helped clarify/narrow down what I did want to do.  I also believe that the pressures of work environments taught me to be a better student than I was as an undergraduate (though I was still an overachiever then, too).

    A Double Attraction…

    I’ve been pulled in two directions… I have to balance a tug of war between my competing attractions: international human rights and social work. One day, my thoughts slowly drift into an international world of theory. My brain is twisted in a million ways, forced to conceptualize the complexities of human rights and human wrongs. And then, the cloud that surrounds my thoughts dissipates and forces me to fall to land where community social work practice is my mantra.

    It has been difficult to balance this double attraction, this multidimensional gravitation that seems to make my life incredibly complicated and incredibly interesting simultaneously. But…it is a worthwhile endeavor. I feel like my brain is being worked in every way possible, forced to understand the delicate and necessary balance between theory and practice. Who says I can’t have the best of both attractions?

    Studying both international human rights and social work has opened my eyes to the diversity of options that lay before me as I enter the professional world. This coming summer, I will have to opportunity to spend two months in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I will have an international social work field placement that integrates my intersecting interests. It will allow me to explore international opportunities for professional development and understand the complexities of NGOs and international nonprofits. Importantly, knowledge from my international human rights education has opened my eyes to transnational migration flows that lead many people to the United States, people with whom I interact daily in my current field placement with a community organizing nonprofit. A global knowledge base contributes greatly to my understanding of social work practice and is increasingly important in our transnational world. Ultimately, I hope it leads me to an academic social work position, where I can work with future students in the classroom and contribute to scholarly knowledge about the intersection of globalization and social work.

    Modern Slavery

    Last Friday and Saturday, I attended an in-depth anti-human trafficking conference at DU.  It was a brilliant experience.  Shortly before coming to GSSW, I did six months of volunteer work in Taiwan working for an anti-human trafficking NGO and when I saw this conference advertised at DU I jumped at the opportunity.  Human trafficking is an issue that I feel very strongly about and I encourage all of you to educate yourselves on the epidemic.

    The conference lasted the two full days and brought in scholars and students from not only around the United States, but also from various corners of the world.  As a student at DU, the entire conference only set me back $15, which is an absurdly good deal.  I listened to panel discussions, attended specific workshop sessions of my own choosing, heard plenary speakers, and conversed with fellow attendees on the issues presented to us.  The conference covered a range of topics from theoretical frameworks of trafficking and country specific case studies to prevention strategies and victim rehabilitation.  All in all I learned a great deal about the current efforts to combat human trafficking and directions that need to be pursued further.