Judith Wise

Judith Bula Wise

Professor Emerita

What I do

“No one is silent. Many are not heard. Work to change this.”* Families who face overwhelming distress; trauma survivors who find paths to resilience and strength; Black, Indigenous, all People of Color, and LGBTQ communities who persevere in spite of devastating historical and present-day discrimination; and friends and colleagues of nations around the globe, these are the members of our human family to whom I have devoted my life’s work in practice, in teaching, and in research. It is a privilege to continue these passions today through community involvement with programs that serve the unhoused and survivors of domestic violence. I serve on a Social Justice Commission’s subgroup for dismantling racism. I also enjoy participation on doctoral dissertation committees at various universities around the U.S. Informally, I’ve had the privilege of offering support to other family caregivers with aging parents and/or spouses facing cancer and its treatments.

*Syracuse Cultural Workers


families and family systems, qualitative research design and methods, trauma

Professional Biography

When Judith Bula Wise (then Judith Bula Jacobs), Ph.D. interviewed at DUGSSW, she was asked, “Why would you want to leave Columbia University to come to Denver?” Her answer: “If you have ever tried to park in New York City on 113th Street between Broadway and Riverside, the vicinity of Columbia’s School of Social Work, you would understand that one reason is your parking lot within steps of the front door!” That one comment might have helped but, in addition to feeling a goodness of fit with the program, the answer was also woven into her commitment to family, both professionally and personally. Her oldest brother and his family lived in Denver and her aging parents were not far away.

Prior to her academic appointments, Dr. Wise practiced in psychiatric social work and family and children’s services. Before Columbia, she taught at the Westchester Graduate Institute for Counseling in Rye and Mt. Kisco, New York, while completing her doctoral work at Bryn Mawr. As an Approved Supervisor with AAMFT (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy), she conducted a simultaneous supervisory practice in New York and Connecticut. Research has always been a joy for Dr. Wise but when it came to working with students, teaching that integrated research was her first passion. Her belief that teaching may or may not promote learning, guided her to study and pursue creative adult learning methods. She felt privileged to work with Virginia Satir, one of the profession’s most renowned process practitioners in applying experiential and multimedia learning methods to both family systems and the adult classroom experience. After Dr. Satir served as the guest member on Wise’s dissertation committee, Dr. Wise joined Satir’s Summer Institute training faculty. They worked together for the six years prior to Dr. Satir’s death.

At DUGSSW, Dr. Wise taught widely across the masters practice and research curriculum as well as the doctoral program’s Qualitative Research courses. Directing the Family Therapy Training Center and the Doctoral Program were administrative positions that preceded her vision, proposal, and eventual leadership of the Trauma Response Certificate Program, one of the first of its kind in the nation. Her numerous journal articles and book chapters advance the research in these areas. Two of Dr. Wise’s books also reflect these areas of specialization. First, Empowerment Practice with Families in Distress received the Provost’s Enhancement Award in 2005. Second, Trauma Transformed, co-edited with Dr. Marian Bussey, was nominated for the Robert Wood Johnson Exemplary Publication Award in 2007. Dr. Wise’s University-wide service included the Faculty Senate’s Student Relations Committee, the joint program between GSSW and the Graduate School of International Studies, and the Interdisciplinary Domestic Violence Prevention Project. Editorial Review Boards on which Dr. Wise served included Columbia University Press, Journal of Couples Therapy, Families in Society, and Education for Health.

When the Chancellor urged all faculty to increase international connections, Dr. Bula Wise responded by using her IREX (International Research Exchanges) grant to travel with Denver’s Institute for International Connections to Moscow and Kiev. There she taught social work skills and the Satir approach to health workers who served survivors of Chernobyl. Two years later, Dr. Bula Wise accepted one-month invitations to teach at the China Youth College in Beijing in 1997 and 1998. She also met with social workers in a children’s hospital in Leon, Nicaragua, and established the initial contact for an international field placement there for DU students.

Dr. Wise welcomed the Emerita years as a time to continue her research and writing. Publication of two textbooks was followed by two book chapters and several journal articles. Inspired by Women Writing Women’s Lives, Dr. Wise embarked on a decade-long project of analyzing 1,023 handwritten letters with accompanying documents to write a story about the life of Edna Baldwin, a human rights activist who lived and worked in Burma in the 1920s and early 1930s. Dr. Wise received a Mayborn Fellowship in 2015 for this project.


  • Ph.D. Social Work and Social Research. Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work, 1982
  • M.S.W. University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, 1972
  • B.S.W. University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, 1971

Licensure / Accreditations

  • Licensed Social Worker, Colorado #989865
  • Academy of Certified Social Workers
  • Marriage and Family Therapy Licensure, Connecticut #000167
  • AAMFT Approved Supervisor


  • Creativity in Marital Transaction, Doctoral Dissertation Research, Bryn Mawr.
  • Health Careers Opportunity Program, Bureau of Health Professions, Washington, D.C. Survivors of Chernobyl, International Research and Exchanges Board, Washington, D.C. and Institute for International Connections, Denver, CO.
  • The Tie That Breaks: The Wounds and Healing of the Family Cutoff, DUGSSW, Denver, CO. Women and Economic Self Sufficiency, DUGSSW, Denver, CO.

Featured Publications

  • Wise, J.B. (2011). Homelessness and its effects. In Heller, N.R. and Gitterman, A. (Eds.), Mental health and social problems, 110-132.
  • Bussey, M. and Wise, J.B. (2008). The recovery paradigm in trauma work: Approaches to healing psychiatric disability and substance abuse in women’s lives. Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation, 7, 355-379.
  • Wise, J.B. (2008). A framework for family empowerment: Tools for working with involuntary clients. In Calder, M.C. (Ed.) The carrot or the stick? Towards effective practice with involuntary clients in safeguarding children work, 152-164.
  • Bussey, M. and Wise, J.B. (Eds.) (2007). Trauma transformed: An empowerment response. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Wise, J.B. (2005). Empowerment practice with families in distress. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Bula, J.F. (2000). Use of the multicultural self for effective practice. In Baldwin, M. (Ed.) The use of self in therapy. (pp.167-189). New York: Haworth.
  • Bula, J.F. (2000). Differential use of self by helping professionals following their own trauma experiences. In Baldwin, M. (Ed.) The use of self in therapy. (213-241). New York: Haworth.


  • Faculty Appreciation Award, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, 2004. Provost’s Enhancement Award, University of Denver, 2001.
  • Faculty by Invitation: Institute for International Connections, Denver, CO, 1995. International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, 1991.
  • Delegate to the International Family Congress, Budapest, Hungary, 1989.
  • Outstanding Professor of the Year, Columbia University Graduate School of Social Work, 1987. Osborne Teaching Award Nominee, 1985.
  • Distinguished American Award, 1981.
  • Who’s Who of American Women, 1980.
  • Interdisciplinary: Mayborn Fellowship in Biography, 2015.