Carina Garsilazo, a second-year student in the Master’s of Social Work Program, smiles widely as she poses for a photo among her classmates at the International Consortium for Social Development Conference in Indonesia. The camera shutters audibly, capturing a moment Garsilazo would cherish forever. 

As a daughter of  Mexican immigrants from the small town of Huron, California – an hour outside of Fresno, Garsilazo never imagined she would pursue higher education and have the chance to present her research 8,000 miles away from home. 

“It gave me the chance to represent my roots,” Garsilazo said proudly. 

She was among 15 social work students, mainly graduate-level, who were offered the opportunity to attend the conference and present their research and theses projects to some of the best international social work professionals and scholars in the world. 


Their journey started in the spring of 2019, when each of the students applied and submitted their own abstracts, involving an aspect of sustainable development as it relates to the social work field. For many of the students, this was the first time they would travel to another country, or even fly on a plane. 

Drs. Dheeshana Jayasundara and Marcus Crawford, both faculty in the Department of Social Work Education, coordinated the conference efforts for the students, and also presented as well. They said fundraising for the conference was their initial goal, as most of the students did not have the funds to travel overseas. 

“This was the first time Fresno State would be represented at the International Consortium for Social Development Conference,” Jayasundara said. “In order to get there, we needed $50,000 to cover the expenses for all 15 students. Each of the students applied for over 40 scholarships and received funding. We also received support through IRA funding, and through the college and University.”

Students also had to fundraise on their own, through crowdfunding and other entities. Their perseverance paid off, as nearly $60,000 was ultimately raised through their efforts. 

Students received support from the University, including President Joseph Castro.

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The conference, held this past summer, allowed students to not only present their own research, but to meet and listen to others in their field. 

“I think attending the conference helped me gain personal connections by meeting people and seeing what they do in the areas that I want to pursue,” Garsilazo said. “Learning about the things that they are implementing and how I can apply it to my work here was really beneficial.”

The research Garsilazo presented focused on school-based mental health and the interventions that are currently in place among Fresno County schools, and the work they are doing to help lower suicide rates. 

Their work was so compelling that it earned them national recognition from the Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Global Social Work Education. The council awarded the group of 15 students with the Partners in Education Award, which honors those that are helping to advance education for international social work. 

Jayasundara said this is the first time a group of students have received the recognition. 



Along with attending the conference, the students were able to explore some of the cultural landmarks of Indonesia, like local temples, mountainsides and villages. They also visited local social welfare agencies, and met with local social workers and were able to put some of their knowledge to practice. 

For Garsilazo, the experience of learning about social work on a global scale has allowed her to learn about the practices of other countries and the effectiveness of them; and how to take this insight and apply it locally, in the Central Valley. 

“Our country is very diverse so it’s important to know that although our clients are here, they might have family in other parts of the world that can affect their well-being here,” Garsilazo said.  

Like many of her classmates, Garsliazo plans to attend the next International Consortium for Social Work Conference, which will be held in Italy in 2020. She says the confidence she gained from this most recent conference is something everyone should experience. She credits the experience for helping her grow professionally and individually.

“The conference allowed us to represent Fresno State and the Central Valley, but more importantly, develop into professionals that are later going to come back and have an impact on the Valley by the work that we do,” Garsilazo said. 

To support social work students attending future educational conferences, contact Amy Millis, Development Director for the College of Health and Human Services, at or 559.278.5590 – or make a gift on the Fresno State Day of Giving on Nov. 7!


  • Blog written by Kelsey Lyman, CHHS Communication Student Writer
  • Video (Interview) produced by Mark Morales, CHHS Multimedia Student Assistant