Alina Rusu

Fulbright Visiting Scholar, 2017-2018

My Fulbright 3-months journey (20th of September – 15th of December 2017) started with a guided tour of the College Avenue Campus and of the Rutgers Social Work School, New Brunswick, with Professor Rebecca Davis, my host at Rutgers, pointed by a good coffee in one of the College Avenue locations. It was a sunny September day, an optimal facilitating environment for positive memories to develop.

First coffee in the College Avenue Campus with Professor Rebecca Davis (Rutgers School of Social Work).

The highlights from my Fulbright journey can be captured on the following dimensions:

(1) Knowledge on the U.S. Higher Education system – from individual to global values

Due to the connections facilitated by Professor Rebecca Davis, I had the chance to deepen my understanding of Social Work education and research in U.S. by attending to several workshops and events, such as: the Workshop “The Use of Group Methods in Classroom Teaching: The Hidden Group in the Classroom” (speaker: Dr. Lawrence Schulman, University of Buffalo), the Rutgers Global Expo at Livingston Student Center Campus on Internationalization, study abroad & Fulbright programs @ Rutgers, an intensive working meeting on the management of SSW Field Education with Nancy Schley, Associate Director of Field Education, New Brunswick, Rutgers, the lecture “Women’s Global Health and the fight against poverty” (Speaker: Gayle E. Smith, president and CEO, the One Campaign), lecture Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a LGBTQ Child (within the Lunch and Learn session) by Michael C. LaSala, director of the Doctorate of Social Work Program and Associate, the School of Social Work Open House (where I had the chance to introduce myself and discuss with several students interested in the Study Abroad Program in Romania), the 2017 Blanche Grosswald Memorial Lecture (School of Social Work) featuring New Jersey Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D) who serves as Chair for the Senate’s committee on Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens, the Workshop "Displaced Lives: The Threat of Violence for Refugee, Displaced and Conflict Affected Women" (role: co-facilitator together with Prof. Rebecca Davis), the lecture Brown Bag Presentation Series: Re-Imagining Civic Education: Moving from Participation and Engagement to Interrogation and Innovation (Rutgers Graduate School of Education), and the Global Rutgers Fifth Anniversary Grants Symposium 2017.

Open house of Rutgers School of Social Work and presentation of Study Abroad Programs - with my dear host, Professor Rebecca Davis, Director of Center for Global Social Work Studies.

Attending the 2017 Blanche Grosswald Memorial Lecture (Rutgers School of Social Work) featuring New Jersey Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D).

Getting ready for the Workshop Displaced Lives/ Dress code for facilitators: red color.

Meeting the members of my working group at the Displaced Lives Workshop.

(2) Presentation, exchange of information and valuable networks in the field of Human-Animal Interaction

My Fulbright visit at Rutgers has offered amazing opportunities not only to present my work in the area of Human-Animal Interactions to some of the faculties of Rutgers University and SSW students, but also to establish valuable connections for future collaborations. My first official lecture was facilitated by Professor Rebecca Davis, within the course Clinical Social Work (Intensive Teaching Weekend, November 2017), on the topic of Animal Inclusion on Group Therapy Interventions. The students indicated high interest on the topic and some of the discussions continued over the lunch break.

Meeting the students of the Intensive Teaching Weekend in Clinical Social Work (Rutgers School of Social Work).

The second official presentation of my work in the area of animal-assisted interventions for autistic children and the development of services for students with disabilities at Babeș-Bolyai University (which is currently hosting the only Disability Office in Romania) was delivered as a colloquium on the 1st of December 2017 at Rutgers – School of Health Professions, Scotch Plains Campus, Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions. The topics of my 2-hours colloquium were: History and Development of Student Disabilities Services in Romania & Constructing Healthy Experiences through Human-Animal Interactions for Persons with Special Needs (organizers: Professor Ni Gao, PhD and Lecturer Giovanna Giacobbe – former student of Professor Rebecca Davis in the Study Abroad Program in Romania). I also had the chance to meet Associate Professor Jennifer Tevlin (and her therapy dog Sweet Pea), who is a practitioner in the field of horse-assisted therapy and is currently teaching the Animal Assisted Therapy course at undergraduate level, Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Her lectures I attended to were enriching in terms of immersion into the educational techniques she is using and in terms of getting aware of the Rutgers University opening toward animal presence in classrooms and in the Campus.

Attending one of the lectures on Animal-Assisted Therapy at Rutgers University and sharing information about my research in the field of applied human-animal interactions.

In the same line, due to the connections facilitated by Sarah Lundi (Master student and research assistant of Professor Rebecca Davis), I had the opportunity to meet the dedicated student members of the Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club (RUSEPRC). Besides taking part to one of RUSEPRC training session for volunteer students, I did participate to two of the awareness educational events (community-oriented events) organized by RUSEPRC, namely the Zimmerli Art Museum Event Puppies with a Purpose - An Afternoon of Art and Conversation with the Zimmerli and the Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club (November, 2017) and De-stress with Daily Targum and RUSEPRC (event for students taking the final exams) at Alexander Library, College Avenue Campus (December, 2017). I did perceive these last two events as an international validation of the activities I am coordinating with the volunteer students in Romania, especially of the Day of Human-Animal Interaction, which is a community-oriented event organized twice per year with the help of volunteer students from Babes-Bolyai University, in collaboration with the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca. The Rutgers students enrolled in the Study Abroad program in Romania will have the chance to participate next summer to the 15th edition of the Day of Human-Animal Interaction on the 1st of June 2018, which is organized in connection to the International Day of Children.

Attending one of the human-animal interaction events organized by Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club.

A significant highlight of my Fulbright visit in terms of exchange of good practices in the field of animal-assisted interventions was the one-day visit at Green Chimneys (therapeutic and educational settings), Brewster NY (guided visit by Michael Kaufmann, administrative director of GC, a renown expert in the area of animal-assisted therapy for persons with special needs). Founded in 1974, Green Chimneys is a well-known nonprofit organization with a long tradition of helping young people to maximize their full potential by providing residential, educational, clinical and recreational services, in a safe and supportive environment that nurtures connections with their families, the community, animals and nature ( Potential collaborations and common events were discussed during the visit.

One of the most important aspect of the Fulbright visit was the planning of a curriculum development together with Professor Rebecca Davis on the connection of human-animal interactions with civic engagement of students through Service-Learning. This planning is supported by two abstract submitted to two international conferences, i.e. one in Romania, Iasi, in April 2018 – the abstract was already accepted and a paper will be prepared by the end of January (, with the title Civic engagement of students through human-animal interactions: Ideas for an interdisciplinary Service Learning-based curriculum and the second abstract was submitted to the World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development 2018, July, Dublin, Ireland (, with co-authors Rebecca Davis and Sarah Lundi (title: Interdisciplinary Approach of Yalom’s Group Therapy Factors: Educational Values of Animal-Assisted Interventions for Social Work Students). These two papers represent a starting base for a syllabus for an interdisciplinary course (or Study Abroad program), which can be developed in the future within a collaborative frame by Rutgers University and Babes-Bolyai University.

(3) Interprofessional Education – from knowledge to practice

In November 2017, I had the chance to be trained and included as facilitator in a challenging and highly enriching event in terms of professional diversity, i.e. Interprofessional Education CVA Case Conference 2017 at the Public Health School Rutgers. The aim of the Interprofessional CVA Case conference is to support a cross-discipline team-based learning experience for healthcare students, including SSW students. The Interprofessional Education (IPE) Case Conference was sponsored by the Rutgers IPE Working Group and led by the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences School of Health Related Professions Physician Assistant.

Attending some of the Global Rutgers events (International Scholars Reception and International Friendsgiving Day) with Professor Rebecca Davis and students from Rutgers

Another event that has contributed to a broaden and multi-dimensional perspective on the importance of family in Social Work practice was the NGO Committee on the Family Event, Fathers Be Good To Your Daughters, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Viet Nam, organized at the United Nations Headquarters in New York (the invitation to this event was facilitated by Professor Rebecca Davis). The event included a comprehensive research-based presentation of Dr. Tim Rarick (Idaho University, Department of Home and Family), which brought light to the importance of multidisciplinary approach on planning family interventions addressing the role of fathers in the quality of life of the children.

(4) Social enrichment events with international and local people

Fulbright visit in U.S. included beautiful social events and places to discover such as Princeton University, New York city (Liberty Statue, museums – especially the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park, Columbia University), Newark with its beautiful cathedrals, North Carolina and Georgia (Atlanta). Some of the social enrichment events had been organized by Global Rutgers and some of them by OneToWorld NGO, as it follows: International Scholars Reception at Student Center, College Avenue & Halloween Gala (with a welcome speech by Professor Debasish Dutta, the Chancellor of Rutgers University), OneToWorld Event Welcome Reception 2017-18 Visiting Fulbright Scholar from around the world at Columbia University, Low Memorial Library, NYC, the Friendsgiving International Event - Rutgers Global and RUPA (Rutgers University Programming Association), an event open to both international and American students with an amazing Thanksgiving-style dinner and activities for all attendees, the Fulbright Holiday Party – organized by OneToWorld NGO at Interface, NYC, the Pre-Christmas lunch organized by the 2017 cohort of Clinical Social Work course (Intensive Teaching Weekend – December 2017) and the SSW PhD and Faculty annual baking competition & Winter holiday reception (College Avenue Campus, Rutgers University New Brunswick).

Meeting Fulbrighters around the world at the One To World 2017-18 Fulbright Welcome Reception at Columbia University, NYC.

My fulbright experience

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Students at the advising center

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