Faculty member mentors international organization

Increasing knowledge is a powerful tool to initiate social change, according to a Shippensburg University faculty member.

flaglerDr. Marita Flagler, assistant professor of social work and gerontology, presented her research at the European Branch of the International Consortium for Social Development in Laesoe, Denmark, Sept. 24. Flagler shared the advantages of a mentoring program in which skills are fostered in individuals to make them experts.

Before she joined Shippensburg in 2006, Flagler worked with the Albanian Disability Rights Organization. After teaching in Albania for 14 years, working as the organization’s director for three, and having a child with a disability, Flagler felt ties to the group. The small organization had five or six employees Flagler describes as very intellectual women but who lacked research skills needed to gain funding for social change policies to help individuals with disabilities.

According to Flagler, “If you want to do something for your child, you have to change the society.” Her desire to foster social change to help her child led to the start of her mentoring program with the organization.

She said the process of changing social policies needs a great deal of research, starting with a needs assessment and later a program evaluation. The organization consulted Flagler to help them edit and rewrite their research and proposals to help garner needed support. Flagler, after a long and tedious editing process, decided there must be a better way to help the organization.

She returned to Albania for a two-week seminar in 2008 where she taught members of the organization basic research skills. She continued to assist them for four months with their research, and then revisited Albania to teach advanced research skills.

Her model of mentoring in which she created “experts” enabled the organization’s staff to present research nationally and to gain funding for four projects. According to Flagler, the agency’s stature has increased and the staff has more confidence and credibility in their research.

“Using this type of mentoring, you can encourage people to do great things and you develop their capacity for greatness,” said Flagler.