School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.


Virginia Commonwealth University faculty, staff, alumni and school friends gathered at the 20th annual Society for Social Work and Research conference in D.C. to celebrate research and Denise Burnette, Ph.D., the newly appointed Samuel S. Wurtzel Endowed Chair in Social Work.

Established by the VCU Board of Visitors in 1987, the Samuel S. Wurtzel Endowed Chair in Social Work was funded by Alan Wurtzel in memory of his father, Samuel Wurtzel, and his commitment to social justice, the Richmond community and the School of Social Work. Wurtzel’s goal was to create a resource for future scholars to continue his father’s humanitarian vision and support the research and scholarship mission of VCU School of Social Work for generations to come.

An eminent scholar and researcher, Burnette’s research focuses on health, mental health and psychosocial problems of older adults, particularly in the context of changing social structures in low-resources settings. She has held Fulbright fellowships at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and the Centre for Research on HIV and AIDS at the University of Botswana and has contributed to building capacity in social work education and research in Albania, Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Moldova. Burnette has more than a decade of direct practice experience in health and mental health with older adults and their families. She is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, the Gerontological Society of America and the New York Academy of Medicine.

During the reception, several colleagues stepped forward to acknowledge Burnette’s work in the field and wish her success in her new role. Kia J. Bentley, Ph.D., professor in the VCU School of Social Work welcomed the new chair and said, “VCU is defined by its values, excellence in teaching, curriculum, passion for student engagement and an appreciation for knowledge building and research. Denise is an incredible fit to all of this and I look forward to learning from her.”

M.S.W. alumna Dianna Hurtado commemorated the Wurtzels’ legacy and welcomed Burnette, saying “Sam was a foundation builder, a business builder, an entrepreneur but above all, he was a person passionate about people. I believe Denise embodies Sam’s qualities and is an excellent fit for VCU.”

“Denise is a wonderful addition to the School of Social and is undoubtedly the type of scholar that Alan had in mind when establishing the Wurtzel chair,” said Humberto Fabelo, Ph.D., associate dean for academic and student affairs.

Overwhelmed with gratitude for all of her colleagues Burnette said, “I feel honored and warmed by everyone’s kind words. I also realize that privilege entails responsibility and, although I will miss my colleagues at Columbia University, I am looking forward to what the future holds at VCU.”

Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D. professor at Washington University in St. Louis and long-time friend and colleague closed the evening with a toast to her future success saying, “VCU, you guys got the best.”


Categories Alumni, Faculty and staff, Research, Students
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