International Social Work: An Italian Perspective


Image of Milan, Italy
The program will focus on the political, economic, and historical context of Italy as it impacts social work education and the delivery of social services.
Location: Milan, Italy
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Summer
Academic Disciplines: Social WorkGraduate Courses
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: No
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

  • Visit social service agencies in Italy that address mental health, children and family, and immigration issues
  • ​Program includes excursions to Bergamo, Lake Como and Rome

This 12-day program offers students the opportunity to gain an international perspective on social work through lectures, field trips to social service agencies, and presentations by social work faculty from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. The program will focus on the political, economic, and historical context of Italy as it impacts social work education and the delivery of social services. Students will visit social service agencies that address mental health, social work with children and families, public health, government and community-based social work practice, aging, and immigration issues. In addition to daily seminars and site visits, students will have the opportunity to travel to significant cultural and historical sites in Milan, Florence and the Lake Como region.

Milan is the second largest city in Italy with a population of about 1.35 million people. The city is one of Italy's most fashionable cities and one of the richest cities in Europe but it also holds several historic and artistic attractions, including the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Last Supper painting, and the famous La Scala Opera House. Travelers to Milan will find a fast-paced, glamorous city with a thriving cultural scene and a top city for shopping. Although the city was heavily bombed during World War II, much of it was rebuilt.

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC)

Established in 1921, the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore is the biggest private university in Europe and the biggest Catholic university in the world. Originally a monastery built by Benedictine monks in the 8th century, the UCSC Milan main campus is characterized by the façade entrance constructed by famed Italian architect Giovanni Muzo, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, the atrium of the zodiac, as well as the Great Hall. The campus is nestled within the original city walls of Milan. UCSC was granted five stars by QS stars, a global university rating system, in employability, teaching, infrastructure, and engagement.

Academic program

Students will enroll in 3 credit hours of SW 560, SW 855 or SW 955.

Two formal class sessions will take place in Lawrence, Kansas, one prior to departure and one upon return. These lectures will provide background information on Italian history, language, culture, and customs in Italy. In Italy, the lectures and field placement visits will provide an overview of the Italian social service system. The impact of history, global economics, religion and culture on social policy and practice in Italy will also be presented.

Credit notes

Pre-Social Work and BSW students can use the course towards a general education requirement or as elective credit.

  • 1st year MSW students can enroll in this course after they have completed all foundation level requirements and apply the credit towards advanced level coursework.
  • MSW students can use this course towards the elective in the Clinical Concentration or towards the Advanced Social Administration selective for the SWAAP Concentration.
  • Ph.D. students can use the course as elective credit.

Social work students should contact Dr. Terry Koenig in the School of Social Welfare at tkoenig@ku.edu for more information.

Students from other KU majors or universities should contact their academic advisor for information about how this might meet requirements.

Students will be housed in double-occupancy hotel accommodations in Milan and Rome.  

Tentative 2023 Itinerary

  • May 15 - Depart the United States 
  • May 16 - Arrive in Milan, orientation and welcome dinner
  • May 17-19 - Lectures, discussions & visits to social service agencies in Milan
  • May 20 - Visit Como
  • May 21 - Visit Bergamo
  • May 22-23 - Lectures, discussions & visits to social service agencies in Milan
  • May 24-27 - Excursion to Rome
  • May 28 - Program Ends; Return to the United States

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

Open to BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. students in the School of Social Welfare; open to graduate students in related fields. Minimum 2.5 GPA required (exceptions considered after submission of petition).

There are no language requirements.

Community professionals may also take this course as part of the School’s Professional Community Education Program.

For more information contact:

Terry Koenig, Professor
School of Social Welfare
Phone: 785-864-2656
Email: tkoenig@ku.edu