The graduating student will work and study in Austria
Graduating MSW student Elizabeth Kunze was recently selected as a 2019-20 Fulbright Scholar. She will spend her time as a teaching assistant at a secondary school and pursue research and university courses in Austria. She is currently finishing her advanced year in the Policy and Administration Field Unit of the MSW program. Her field placement is at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health. She plans to graduate in May and recently took time to describe her Fulbright award and the work she plans to do.
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE AWARD AND WHAT WAS YOUR INTEREST IN APPLYING?
I learned about the Fulbright program in my senior year. At the time, I was studying abroad for a year in Freiburg, Germany. Some alumni of the Academic Year in Freiburg program were visiting Freiburg and I remember being fascinated with the idea of teaching and researching in another country. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a way to live and work in other democratic countries like Germany and Austria. I applied to the Fulbright program because I want to reshape my worldview about what it means to be an American at this moment in our history. I want to learn how other democracies address social justice issues like immigration, housing, healthcare, education, and access to opportunity. By changing my environment, I hope to better understand why some of these challenges in the United States are so intractable and how, on an individual level, I can connect and learn from people who may have drastically different world views than me. There’s something humbling about learning a new language and way of living because in the past it has revealed some of my own biases and assumptions about ‘how things ought to be.’
Mark Lilleleht at the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) coordinates the Fulbright program on campus over the summer. He mentored me through the application process. For any students interested in Fulbright, I highly recommend working with Mark at IRIS.
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING AS A FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR AND WHERE WILL YOU BE WORKING/STUDYING?
I earned what’s called a Combined Award, so I will be teaching Austrian secondary students English for 20 hours a week, then with my remaining time, I will enroll in courses at the Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU) and the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). At WU, I’ll study housing cooperatives and Vienna’s Smart City Strategy. I have been assigned to teach English at Firnberg which is an Austrian vocational school for economics, tourism, and gastronomy. At TU Wien, I’ll learn about the politics of public space and study specific social housing projects to understand how these projects were shaped by the Vienna Model for Social Housing’s developer competition process. I want to learn how agencies like these operationalize continuity and innovation, social mixing, citizen participation, and governance in social housing design and how this contributes to resident wellbeing, participation, sustainability, and governance.
WHAT WAS YOUR INTEREST IN PICKING AUSTRIA?
I choose Austria, in part because I met the German language requirements and because unlike most other European and American cities, more than 60 percent of Viennese residents live in public or publicly-subsidized housing. Vienna actually adapted an American Smart City framework into its city planning which many believe has contributed to Vienna’s ranking as having the best quality of life in the world in 2018 and 2019. I also picked Vienna because it’s not only the largest Austrian city; the city itself is one of nine Austrian provinces and the country’s federal capital. In Austria, legislative and executive powers are shared by the federal and provincial governments. This three-tiered governing structure in Vienna provides for comparisons to home in Madison: our state capital and the state’s second largest city. I want to explore how cohesive municipal, provincial and federal inter-governance efforts result in social housing programs that contribute to Vienna’s status as the world’s most livable city. Then I want to bring the lessons I learn home to Wisconsin to address our affordable housing crisis.
Vienna also has been on the migratory path for many refugees escaping war-ravaged countries in the middle east. In autumn 2015, more than 300,000 refugees arrived in Vienna mostly by train. Some went on to settle in other countries, but some settled in Austria. Self-organized collectives of concerned residents and refugees occupied train stations across the city in order to provide support and shelter to people escaping violence. I want to learn what Vienna has done to integrate immigrant communities into the city through social housing. Refugee settlement and integration are an urgent need here in the U.S. as we experience our own immigration crisis with asylum seekers from Central America. I want to learn how other countries are choosing to address similar challenges like immigration.
HOW LONG IS THE PROGRAM AND WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH/WORK/SCHOOLING WILL YOU BE DOING?
It’s a nine-month program, which means I leave in late September 2019 and return to the U.S. in July 2019.
HOW HAS YOUR TIME IN THE SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK PREPARED YOU FOR THIS EXPERIENCE?
The group facilitation skills I’ve learned in SW442 (Generalist Practice with Communities & Organizations) will be useful in classroom settings and the experiences I’ve had working in county and state government through my field placements have given me a better way of understanding how government can create partnerships with community groups to meet community needs. Classes like Advanced Macro Social Work Practice, Psychopathology, and Interprofessional HIV Care have really helped me understand certain parts of our social service systems and how social workers can partner with communities to improve quality of life and access to resources. Also, Professor Marah Curtis is teaching me through an independent study about her expertise in housing. I feel really lucky to learn from her about secure housing as a protective factor for families. Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted had a big impact on me, too, since I was raised for part of my childhood in a segregated white suburb in Milwaukee.
YOU’RE GRADUATING THIS SPRING. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS BETWEEN NOW AND WHEN YOU LEAVE FOR AUSTRIA?
Before I leave for Austria, I will be working as the constituent relations manager for State Senator Mark Miller. I also want to learn more about Madison Mayor Rhodes-Conway’s plan for addressing the affordable housing crisis here in Madison. I want to find time to volunteer, too, for Open Doors for Refugees resettlement in Madison.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF WORKING IN SOCIAL WORK LONG-TERM? IN WHAT CAPACITY?
I think so, and I’m open to new ideas, too. Ideally, I’d like to move back to Madison and work for a state or municipal agency to organize with communities to protect their right to affordable, quality housing in safe neighborhoods. It may be cool to work for different supported and cooperative housing developers. I know that challenges like affordable housing could take generations to change, but I want to play my part in ways that I can.