Skip to main content

Students Skype with USAID worker in Afghanistan

By Susan White

The video was a little grainy and the audio was a bit intermittent, but neither challenge seemed too distracting for the 35 MSW students who got the chance to Skype on Oct. 31 with Elizabeth Smithwick, who is stationed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Smithwick is the humanitarian agency’s former lead field officer and deputy director of the Panjshir Province Reconstruction Team—a civilian-led and military-commanded group that is leading efforts on Afghanistan’s economic, judicial, social, educational, and infrastructure development. Currently, she is the gender advisor for Regional Command East and travels throughout 13 provinces.

Smithwick, who has been stationed in Afghanistan for more than two years, monitors and advises the planning and implementation of projects related to women’s development and has participated in more than 1,000 missions across the country. During the nearly one hour chat with students, Smithwick spoke of her experiences in working closely with Panjshiri women, Afghan officials, and the U.S. military.

School faculty Joanne Caye and Mat Despard arranged the online video chat as a way of helping students in their “Social Work Practice with Communities and Organizations” classes learn more about macro-focused social work practice abroad.