Transforming Community: Social Work with Refugee Resettlement

Welcome and Introduction

Forced migration as a result of political and economic oppression, violent conflict, and environmental destruction is reshaping communities throughout the world. The purpose of this web-based course is to educate social workers, policy makers, and community-based service providers about the relevance of social work practice in working with refugees; but it can also be helpful for others as a guide to a deeper understanding of this ongoing issue.

The study that forms the basis of this course focused on current refugee resettlement practices in Germany. The videos of interviews with seven refugees and nine service providers offer a vivid picture of their experiences working to promote engagement and integration of refugees into host communities to facilitate mutual growth and understanding. Pictures and transcripts of those interviews are included to further give voice to those working directly to enhance the quality of life for all involved.

A human rights perspective and a relational-cultural lens are used to contextualize global issues and promote a better understanding of the concerns of refugees and people living in their host communities. This course provides personal accounts of the processes involved in the integration of refugees with host community members in Germany from both the refugee and service provider perspectives. The aim here is to raise awareness of this global issue as well as to better inform others facing similar issues in their own communities. 

The following 12 Modules provide a brief history of recent refugee movements, global responses, applicable theoretical perspectives, and voices of those involved in the current refugee resettlement in Germany. At the conclusion of each module we have included suggested activities for individual written assignments as well as dyad and full class discussions that promote critical thinking to further community and collaborative international social action to respond to this ongoing global issue.

For more information on refugee resettlement, please see links to other recent studies that have been done in Armenia and the state of Texas in the U.S..


In solidarity and compassion for those who work with refugees worldwide, we would like to share our gratitude for the many persons who helped to create this multimedia curriculum. The development of this project was supported in part by the Council on Social Work Education Special Project Funding,  and The College of St. Scholastica including the Departments of Social Work and Communication, Theater and Art.


We would like to extend a special "thank you" to the University of Wisconsin, Superior and Dr. Lynn Goerdt for their organization and collaboration with our Study Abroad program.

We would like to share our respect and gratitude to the following organizations and institutions who generously shared their hospitality, expertise, and professional and personal experiences with us. They include the Alice Salomon Hochschule, Stadtverwaltung Schwerin, Handwerkskammer Schwerin, sonntags:Schule!, Miteinander-Maan e.V., Flüchtlingeshilfe Schwerin e.V., Die Platte lebt e.V., MH together e.V., Café Dar, Flüchtlingsrat Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and all the families and friends who invited us as guests to their homes during Ramadan.

We would also like to recognize the translation, editorial and production support received from Prof. Dr. Cordula Borbe, Claus Oellerking, Almut Lüpkes, Bettina Muehlenbeck, and Kitara Peterson. Their participation and recommendations helped to shape our project.


Thank you.


Dr. Connie Gunderson

Dr. Dorothy Graff

Dr. Robert Larson

The following people were involved in the development of the multimedia platform on the study of refugee resettlement in Germany.

Connie Gunderson, Ph.D., LISW, Lead Researcher, is an associate professor at The College of St.Scholastica. Having completed her undergraduate studies at The College of St. Scholastica, she worked in Germany until 2012. She completed her MSW in clinical social work practice at the Alice Salomon Hochschule in Berlin, Germany and received her PhD from the University of Bremen, in Bremen, Germany. Her areas of scholarship include Relational-Cultural theory, human trafficking, and international refugee resettlement. Her passion is to protect the beaver, nature’s eco-engineer and a keystone specie, through education and ethical/environmentally sound land and water management. Dr. Gunderson has written, edited, and published numerous books and articles grounded in Relational-Cultural theory to address social issues including trauma and addiction, human trafficking, diversity, and the environment.

Dorothy Graff, Ph.D., LICSW, Contributing Editor, worked in New York for over 10 years as a clinical social worker with individuals, couples, families, and groups whose ages ranged from young children to seniors. She received her PhD in social work from the University of Texas in Austin and has taught in social work programs both in Texas and Minnesota for over 16 years. She has presented her research at international, national and local conferences and has been published in a variety of professional journals.

Rob Larson, M.Ed., Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at The College of St. Scholastica. He is a local actor, writer and media theorist. He is a graduate of the European Graduate School, and specializes in interdisciplinary studies and digital media production. 

Stacie Renné, Web Designer, is an adjunct professor at the College of St. Scholastica, with a MFA in Design Strategy and Innovation. She is a business owner, entrepreneuer, and graphic artist with over 30 years of expereince in corporate, and freelance design.

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