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Auburn professor receives Fulbright Specialist Award to establish Master of Social Work program in Liberia

Felicia Tuggle with AMEU class in Liberia
Since 2017, Assistant Professor of Social Work Felicia Tuggle (far right) has worked with AMEU to build its social work programming.

Auburn University Assistant Professor of Social Work Felicia Tuggle has been named to the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright Specialist Program to establish Liberia's first community-based social work graduate program.

Four institutions in Liberia offer bachelor's degrees in social work, but the only existing graduate program is clinically focused. Tuggle will work through the end of 2024 helping African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) establish a Master of Social Work curriculum.

"It's going to be more of a macro-focus curriculum, specifically for those students who really want to work more at the community level, intersecting with government, businesses, civil society organizations and a wide variety of diverse stakeholders that really help facilitate development," Tuggle said. "It's really framed around providing them with the knowledge and skills to help advance sustainable development."

The Fulbright Specialist Program supports project-based exchange opportunities for U.S. academics and professionals to build relationships between countries. Fulbright specialists visit host institutions to share expertise, gain international experience and hone multicultural skills.

Tuggle's project hopes to advance sustainable development in Liberia by educating students on how to apply the United Nations' sustainable development goals (SDGs) in practice. The SDGs include no poverty, zero hunger, quality education and more.

Tuggle said social workers are essential in bringing together different development actors to work toward a more sustainable community.

"Currently, so many of these different agencies at the community level, and even at the national level, function in silos. One of the outcomes will be more collaborative work and support across different sectors of development," Tuggle said. "When you're thinking about access to water, thinking about how that impacts food security and how that impacts gender equality, more collaboration between all of those development actors will lead to a framework more focused around development."

Tuggle first engaged with Liberia's AMEU in 2017, after the country faced two decades of civil war and an Ebola epidemic. The United Nations agencies who visited Liberia during the time cited an urgent need for social workers, so Tuggle helped AMEU start its undergraduate social work program.

Since then, Tuggle has trained and evaluated field education programming, conducted a national evaluation of social work programs in Liberia and helped AMEU build its undergraduate capacity. With more and more students graduating with an interest in social and community development, the need for a master's degree became clear.

Fulbright support will allow Tuggle to travel to Liberia in May and December, where she will help establish a graduate curriculum, connect with ministries and community-based organizations and advocate for improved national policy around social work.

Tuggle said her work in Liberia also supports a globalized education in the social work program in the College of Liberal Arts.

"In addition to this, it just really aligns with my own research and my teaching. My body of research focuses on the role of social work education and practice in advancing sustainable development, so this dovetails really nicely with that," Tuggle said. "I pride myself on bringing a lot of global content into the classroom, and so this will further help me diversify and internationalize social curriculum here at Auburn as I bring new methods and interventions back to my U.S.-based classroom."

Read more about the social work program at the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work website.

Tags: Faculty Community and Outreach Social Work

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