Students Sarah Laffin and Aleksandra Matysek completed a six-week school-based mental health practicum this past fall in Beijing, China as part of an international exchange program between Beijing Normal University (BNU) and the CFSP program. The program – now in its fourth year – was developed to broaden students’ multicultural competence and to promote the field of school psychology.

Laffin and Matysek completed their practicum with graduate students from BNU at Jingyuan School, a public middle and high school located in Beijing’s fifth ring. They worked with an on-site supervisor to plan and deliver weekly classroom mental health lessons, group counseling, and career development services. Laffin and Matysek also engaged in a cross-cultural comparison of school-based approaches to identify and manage student anxiety and gave a joint teleconference presentation to graduate students and faculty at both BNU and the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) on the topic.

One important finding discussed was that while levels of general anxiety are about the same in both cultures, social anxiety is more prominent in China due in part to the cultural focus on harmonious relationships and social restraint. Laffin and Matysek learned that students in the United States are more likely to seek help managing anxiety, possibly due to a greater awareness and acceptance of the role mental health plays in academic and life success. Two graduate students from BNU will reciprocate the exchange this spring, coming to MCE to attend selected classes and accompany current CFSP graduate students to their local practicum sites. They will also give a cross-cultural, joint teleconference presentation.

Laffin and Matysek say that their increased global understanding has had a positive influence on their practice and has increased their confidence in communicating with bi-lingual students and families in the United States. The international exchange program has been of mutual benefit as peers and faculty at BNU have been able to employ the counseling tools and methods introduced by CFSP students. The exchange has fostered an increased international appreciation of school-based mental health, helping BNU to establish a graduate program supporting China’s emerging field of school psychology.

This September, DU’s Library and Information Science (LIS) program at Morgridge College of Education had their annual Showcase of Opportunities event, highlighting InContext learning opportunities at community organizations across the Denver Metro. Throughout their coursework, all LIS students are encouraged to get hands-on experience by obtaining internships and volunteering at libraries, museums and other information settings, but second year students are required to complete a 4-credit practicum (including 100 hours of field work, class meetings and paperwork) before graduating. Dr. Clara Sitter, Clinical Associate Professor and LIS Program Coordinator, has been instrumental in helping students find their practicum experience by establishing connections with community organizations and field mentors, bringing them all together for one event. At this year’s Showcase of Opportunities, Librarians and representatives from over 30 organizations gathered in Ruffatto Hall to promote InContext learning opportunities, ranging from practicum work, internships (paid and unpaid), for-credit service learning, special projects and independent study. “We do brief introductions of the organizations at the beginning, then, students walk around and visit the tables they are interested in to find out more information,” Sitter explains.

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Having been in the library profession for over 30 years, and having coordinated LIS student practicums at DU for 14 years, Sitter has designed the Showcase around the networked career: “The Showcase offers an advantage for students to network and make connections with professionals and organizations in the area. Libraries love our students, and occasionally, students get hired by their practicum site.”

 

 

Although the Showcase of Opportunities includes mainly Denver Metro organizations, students aren’t limited in their choice of practicum: “We have great sites in the Denver metro area, but sometimes students want experience in another city or even abroad, so we’ve had students do their practicum work in Australia, England, Poland, Amsterdam, China, Chicago, and San Francisco, among others.”

At each practicum site, there is an MCE approved field mentor to provide the students with one-on-one guidance and support. Sitter elaborates: “We look for field mentors who have significant experience and who demonstrate expertise that pairs up with the interests of our students. Every practicum is different, but the student should be in learning mode (learning systems and instruction)10% of the time, and should be able to work 90% of the time.”

A practicum differs from an internship because it is student-oriented; students identify their own goals and objectives. Dr. Sitter works with each student to identify his or her goals and objectives in order to better suggest places that would promote his or her desired field learning environment. From there, the student sets up information interviews with several practicum sites and decides which one is the best fit. “In many cases, that initial connection with the organization was made at the Showcase of Opportunities,” she adds.

During their field experience, students keep a journal, posting weekly to reflect on their experience. “It is wonderful to see them at the beginning of their practicum experience, intimidated by users and unsure of a lot of things. In just 100 hours, the practicum experience usually confirms this choice of career and identifies where students want to work once they graduate,” Sitter remarks.

Morgridge College of Education’s Library & Information Science program is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and was the first program in the country to offer a focus in Early Childhood Librarianship. To learn more information about the LIS program, contact the Morgridge Office of Admissions.


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