Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Grad students spend summer in post-conflict regions

Instead of lying by a pool relaxing this summer, 26 DU graduate students traveled to post-conflict areas in Eastern Europe to work with organizations that provide psychosocial services to trauma-effected communities.

The summer internship is a requirement of students obtaining a master’s degree in International Disaster Psychologyat DU’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology.

Julie Kendall spent eight weeks in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, splitting her time with two aid organizations.

“It was a privilege to work there,” says Kendall, who helped write a training manual for the organization Zene Zenema, or Women to Women. The manual addresses the needs of caregivers who consistently treat victims of violence.

“Over time, the caregivers find they often experience the same symptoms of the victims,” Kendall says.

Kendall also taught English to adults who worked at SOS Kinder, an organization that assists orphans of war.

“Our graduate students acquire a broad perspective on international development and disaster, relevant clinical skills and knowledge in research, program evaluation and trauma in order to engage in work that can result in sustainable benefits for these communities,” says Judith Fox, director of the IDP Program.

Fox finds eight-week placements for students, who so far have traveled to such places as Croatia, Serbia and South Africa.  

Maria Wrzosek worked in Moster, Bosnia-Herzegovina, for the Center for Civic Initiatives. 

“I was there to learn more about the mental health services available for war crime victims, specifically those testifying in court,” Wrzosek says.

Along with fellow student Sara Randazzo, Wrzosek assisted the agency in developing a proposal for psychosocial services to assist these victims.  These students also gave presentations to local agencies about post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Everyone I met was affected by the war,” she says. “Rarely did a conversation take place that didn’t reference the war.”

“This is a unique program, one of its kind in the world,” Kendall says.

DU’s International Disaster Psychology program won national awards for innovation in psychology education and practices in 2006 from the American Psychology Association and the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology.

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