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Studies in Harm Reduction


Program Details

Participants in this study abroad program will examine the harm reduction model in a multinational, cross-disciplinary context, considering applications to a variety of social and health concerns and identifying barriers to and facilitators of the development and use of harm reduction strategies. Harm reduction is a health, social service, and public policy model that has gained a great deal of attention in recent years. Unfortunately, in the United States, politicians and policy makers have often chosen to address rapidly evolving and dynamic social concerns like drug use, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the spread of hepatitis with status quo strategies. In sharp contrast, Switzerland has been a leader on the international stage, adopting harm reduction as a central feature of its national drug policy, and developing and implementing innovative, cutting-edge, and often controversial strategies to combat such significant social and health issues. Over the past two decades in Switzerland, harm reduction has been integrated into social and public health services, criminal justice and correctional programs, and public policy. Switzerland is also a fairly small country with a stable government, a welcoming citizenry, and well-developed public transportation, making it safe, inviting, and easy to get around. In addition, the headquarters of the World Health Organization and UNAIDS are located in Geneva, which offers an opportunity for students to be exposed to harm reduction efforts on an even larger international scale. Thus, Switzerland offers a rich environment in which to examine and explore the meaning and use of harm reduction.

Selection Criteria:

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Be a high school graduate or above.
  • Participants seeking academic credit for the program must be able to read the required text and participate in discussions.
  • Must complete preliminary essay “What Will I Learn”.


  • Switzerland

Program Dates:

May 3, 2022 - May 17, 2022


$3,250 (Airfare NOT Included)

Suggested Payment Schedule:

  • Deposit: $500
  • December 3, 2021: $500
  • Jan. 7, 2022: $500
  • Feb. 4, 2022: $500
  • March 4, 2022: $500
  • April 1, 2022: $500
  • May 2, 2022: $250

Must be paid in full by May 2, 2022

Deposit: $500 dollars will need to be paid when you hand in your application.

Payments can now be made online! Visit this website for instructions on how to pay your deposit online and future payments. Charges should show on your account within 24 hours after registration. As always, you can pay with a credit card as well. To keep our trip costs low, we encourage the use of ACH Bank Transfers, or payments by cash or check whenever possible.

Include: room and board, domestic transportation, and some meals.

Not included: airfare, passport, incidentals, excess baggage costs, any unscheduled travel, and all meals.



  • Saturday, April 23, 2022, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Pre-travel seminar. This will include an introduction of the instructor, a “get to know you” activity, a brief review of harm reduction, a discussion of the broad applications of harm reduction to various social concerns, an introduction to Switzerland, a review of the program itinerary and academic requirements, a review of travel and safety tips, and a question-and-answer period. (4 instruction hours)
  • Saturday, April 30, 2022 – 9:00 a.m. to noon – Pre-travel seminar. This will include a presentation of harm reduction activities in Utah, a discussion of harm reduction in the United States, and a conversation about U.S. drug policy (history, current status, future). Participants will also have the opportunity to ask any final questions about the trip before departure. (3 instruction hours)
  • Tuesday, May 3, 2022 – Depart from Salt Lake City.
  • Wednesday, May 4, 2022 – Arrive in Zurich. Travel to Bern Settle in to accommodations and rest. Dinner together. Orientation to Bern and Switzerland. (2 instruction hours)
  • Thursday, May 5, 2022 – Morning meeting. Bern. Swiss political process, national government, tour of national government headquarters (Federal Council representative). Lunch together. Public health and harm reduction in Switzerland. Harm reduction and sexual health. Evening free. (5.5 instruction hours)
  • Friday, May 6, 2022 – Morning meeting. Travel to Zurich. Visit to urban HAT. Lunch together. Visit to consumption room. Harm reduction and commercial sex. Return to Bern. Evening free. (5.5 instruction hours)
  • Saturday, May 7, 2022 – Day free.
  • Sunday, May 8, 2022 – Day free. Evening meeting to review the week’s schedule. (0.5 instruction hour)
  • Monday, May 9, 2022 – Morning meeting. Travel to Hindlebank prison. Harm reduction in women’s correctional programming. Lunch together. Travel to Thun. Visit to rural HAT. Return to Bern. Evening free. (5.5 instruction hours)
  • Tuesday, May 10, 2022 – Morning meeting. Travel to Neuchatel. Harm reduction and human rights. Lunch together. Travel to Fribourg. Swiss professional preparation in human services (University of Fribourg). Travel to Vevey. Harm reduction at the local level (meeting with mayor). Return to Bern. Evening free. (6.5 instruction hours)
  • Wednesday, May 11, 2022 – Day free.
  • Thursday, May 12, 2022 – Morning meeting. Travel to Geneva. Advanced harm reduction and harm reduction history (Pat O’Hare). International harm reduction (WHO/UNAIDS). Lunch together. Harm reduction in men’s correctional programming. Swiss professional preparation in public health (University of Geneva). Return to Bern. Evening free. (7 instruction hours)
  • Friday, May 13, 2022 – Morning meeting. Harm reduction and law enforcement. Harm reduction street outreach. Lunch together. Harm reduction support services. Evening free. (5.5 instruction hours)
  • Saturday, May 14, 2022 – Day free.
  • Sunday, May 15, 2022 – Day free. Evening meeting to review next day’s service activity. (0.5 instruction hour)
  • Monday, May 16, 2022 – Morning meeting. Service activity. Afternoon free. Dinner together. (4 instruction hours)
  • Tuesday, May 17, 2022 – Check out. Travel to Zurich. Depart from Zurich. Arrive in Salt Lake City.
  • Saturday, May 21, 2022, 9:00 a.m. to noon – Celebration breakfast. Shared insights presentations. Program debriefing. (3 instruction hours)

Academic Courses

Students who participate in this study abroad program will be able to register for up to three (3) semester credits though Weber State University in:

  • SW 4920

Program Directors

Dr. Mark Bigler, LCSW, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Social Work and Gerontology at Weber State University, will be the program director for this study abroad experience. Dr. Bigler has more than 20 years of experience in higher education. Harm reduction has been a significant part of his professional experience and his research agenda. He has traveled extensively in North America and Europe. He lived in Switzerland for a year and has visited the country on several other occasions, twice on trips supported by Weber State University grants to study harm reduction and Swiss drug policy. He also spent several months living in France. He holds a bachelor’s degree in French, one of Switzerland’s three national languages, and he speaks French fluently.

Trip Cancellations

If Weber State cancels a trip for any reason, all participants will be refunded 100% of funds paid to the school. If a participant withdraws from the program for any reason, they are subject to the refund policy found on the first page of the application.  Deposits are always non-refundable, unless the program is canceled by Weber State.  No refunds will be issued 30 days prior to program start date. 

Refunds will NOT be given to students due to COVID-19 concerns. Before programs were canceled in 2020, every student was given the option to withdraw from programs without penalty due to COVID-19. This year students are applying, cognizant of the pandemic. Weber State will not intentionally place students into high risk situations. We will work together with Program Leaders and Departments on canceling should the destination demonstrate increased risks, be they from COVID or any other concern. As such, students must abide by the standard refund policy.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Study Abroad Office at (801) 626-8711.