Social work professor to lead students on study trip to Finland

After living and working in Finland for 20 years, Dr. Kris Clarke now resides in her hometown of Fresno. While she is no longer a resident of Finland, Clarke, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work Education at Fresno State, is working to establish a connection between the two places she has called home.

Clarke completed her undergraduate degree in English literature at Reed College in Portland, Ore. In 1987, she traveled to Finland to teach English with the intentions of staying for one year.  She ended up staying two decades and completed three postgraduate degrees in international relations with a focus in development studies, as well as social work.

While in Finland, Clarke worked for the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, the European Union as the Finnish National Representative for an HIV public health project and was also an assistant professor at the University of Tampere.

In May of this year, Clarke will lead a group of Fresno State students on a study trip to her former home in Tampere, Finland.

“The trip is interdisciplinary and the idea is to teach about the concept of the Nordic welfare state,” Clarke said. “It’s very comprehensive in terms of universal services.”

Clarke and a group of about ten Fresno State students will travel to Tampere, for the two-week trip. While in Finland, the group will visit a healthcare center, a childcare center, an asylum and possibly a rehab for substance abuse. Facility visits will aim at educating students on the history, theory and practice of the welfare society in Finland.

“I’m trying to really get this Finnish-Fresno connection working because I think we can learn a lot from each other,” Clarke said.

“We are different societies but it’s good to look at other places. When you’re from a big country, you don’t always have to get into other people’s cultures because yours is so vast, but I think it’s a healthy thing to do.”

The trip to Finland has not been done before and Clarke has created and organized the trip on her own.

“Dr. Clarke has been a force in our department for enlarging students’ view of themselves and the world because of her extensive experience working and living abroad,” said Dr. Anne Petrovich, an associate professor in the Department of Social Work Education.

Students who go on the trip will stay at a hostel that is located next to the university. Clarke’s presence and knowledge of Tampere will likely be beneficial and endowing to the overall experience the students have.

“I am sure that the trip to Finland will be a rich experience, as she is fluent in the language and the culture,” said Dr. Debra Harris, also an associate professor in the Department of Social Work Education.

The study trip to Finland is a three-unit course. A limited number of grants will be available for matriculated Fresno State students. The trip deposit is due March 12, with the remainder of the payment due April 16. For more information regarding the trip, contact Clarke in the Department of Social Work Education.

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