Ken Herrmann & Susan Herrmann
Social workers are familiar with terms like “cultural competence” and “cultural humility”, the idea that professionals should be familiar with cultural differences among individuals and communities, and have the skills and self-awareness to be able to work effectively with clients who are not like you. Globalization and human migration make it all the more important for social workers to know and understand human diversity world-wide. The question is, then, how do social workers come to develop a basic understanding of differences among cultures and communities, and develop the skills and perspectives to work with differs populations. One answer to this question is through international study abroad programs.
In this podcast, the late Dr. Ken Herrmann discusses The College of Brockport’s Vietnam Program, a study abroad program in Vietnam housed in the Department of Social Work. He shares the personal history that led him to develop the program, including his experiences in the US armed forces during the Vietnam War. He also discusses the service learning orientation of the program, the kinds of activities that students engage in, and the goals and values at the heart of the program. Throughout his discussion, Dr. Herrmann shares what students learn about themselves and others through their service work in Vietnam. He also discusses the challenges and opportunities that come with an international program.
Ken Herrmann, Jr. received his MSW from the University at Buffalo, SUNY. He joined the faculty at the College of Brockport, SUNY, in 1978 after, among other posts, teaching and social work in Bogota, Colombia (1964), civil affairs work with an infantry battalion in the US Army in Vietnam (1968-69), teaching seventh-grade in an inner city school, and administration and casework in public and private child welfare agencies. He has been the president of a US branch of an international children’s rights organization, a consultant for a variety of news organizations and international human rights organizations, and a guest on media programs around the world. He has completed commissioned studies for UNICEF (the first UNICEF study on child sex trafficking) and the Hague Conference on Private International Law and has published four books, as well as dozens of articles, book chapters, and book reviews. He has served as a member of the NYS Board for Social Work, with the World Federation of Mental Health, as President of a chapter for the NYS Society of Clinical Social Work Psychotherapists, and as the director of a veterans’ counseling center. He has guest lectured and presented at a variety of local, state, and international conferences and professional meetings. He served in a variety of service roles, including directing an NGO that serves the poor in Vietnam (The Danang/Quang Nam Fund, Inc.) and the first study abroad program of its kind in Vietnam, Brockport’s Vietnam Program, a program that places American students in Vietnam for a blend of study and service. He taught courses in international social work, methods, child welfare, social policy, and social justice.
Susan L Herrmann is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of New York, USA, currently in private practice. Susan is a doctoral candidate in the Human and Organizational Development School at Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA. Additionally, Susan is the Director of the Brockport Vietnam program and the Executive Director of the Danang Quang-Nam Fund, Inc., a non-governmental organization that provides direct aid to the poor in Vietnam (www.agentorangechildren.org). Areas of research and practice interest include, building sustainable communities for emotional and physical well-being, consciousness development, and critical service learning. Susan is a widow and mother whose devotion is demonstrated through cooking, gardening, writing, and singing/songwriting. She enjoys raising critically conscious and environmentally responsible children.
Interviewer: Charles Syms, LCSW