Our Future Vision

The Next 90 Years

Fall 2021 marks the 90th anniversary of the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). We have countless accomplishments and milestones to celebrate, as well as almost a century of contributions from the many incredible social work scholars, educators, alumni and leaders who made GSSW the remarkable place it is today.

While we’re celebrating our legacy, we’re focused on the future — a bold vision for social work that is centered on community and collective care and that delivers on the long-overdue promise of equity and justice. We’re focused on the ways we will transform social work research, practice and education to imagine, ignite and sustain change.

Learn more about GSSW’s strategic goals and vision for the future. 

Dean Amanda Moore McBride reflects on what the next century might look like for social work and GSSW.

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Amanda Moore McBride

The Future of Social Work

Marquisha Lawrence Scott
The Future of Work

What will the future of work be for today’s youth? GSSW Assistant Professor Marquisha Lawrence Scott explores the impacts of globalization and automation on healthy youth development.

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Social Work and Mutual Aid

A GSSW research team is studying the ways that mutual aid has been meeting Colorado community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Washington Park, Denver
Health Futures Fellowship

Led by PhD alumna Laura Nissen, GSSW fellows are applying futures thinking and foresight practices to social work as part of the Social Work Health Futures Lab.

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Philanthropic futurist Trista Harris joined GSSW to explore “The Future of Social Change,” discussing how we can create positive change in our ever-changing world by using tools and patterns of futurism.

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Social Work Scholars, Educators and Leaders

People of vision and purpose make GSSW what it is today, and that has been our legacy from the start. Get to know some of the individuals who shaped our trajectory.

  • 1930s

    1934–47: Florence W. Hutsinpillar, Director, Graduate School of Social Work

    Florence W. Hutsinpillar (1883–1968) was director at the Denver Bureau of Charities and Corrections. In 1921, she cofounded the Denver chapter of the American Association of Social Workers, which encouraged graduate training for social workers. Unfortunately, at that time, the only graduate social work programs were in the eastern United States. She left Denver for the University of Chicago to pursue her own master’s degree but returned in 1934 to become the second director of the University of Denver Department of Social Work. She guided the program through the end of the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war years. During her leadership, the department became a graduate school and began offering an MSW degree.

    1931–34: (Grace) Eleanor Kimble, Founding Director, Department of Applied Social Sciences

    G. Eleanor Kimble (1894–1977) received a doctorate from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in 1931. Her dissertation research and several subsequent published research studies focused on transients and people experiencing homelessness, especially women who were forced into homelessness because of pregnancy and/or subsequent desertion by their husbands. She came to Denver to head the Department of Applied Social Sciences (renamed the Department of Social Work in 1932), where she taught courses in casework, social policy and research, and supervised students’ master’s theses.

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    1930: Florence Roberts Day, Founder

    A social work professor from Western Reserve University, Florence Roberts Day (1898–1957) came to the University of Denver at the invitation of chancellor Fredrick Hunter to establish the School of Social Work Education, which enrolled its first students in 1930. After founding the school, she returned to Western Reserve University. In her teaching and scholarship, Day emphasized the connection between emotional and economic health and that social workers had a dual responsibility to provide social treatment and social action for clients.

  • 1940s

    1947–71: Emil M. Sunley, Director & Dean

    GSSW’s first dean, Emil M. Sunley (1906–1977) completed his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1938 and headed social work departments at West Virginia University and the University of Louisville before arriving at the University of Denver in 1947. He secured Templin Hall as GSSW’s home in 1954, and later raised funds for the school’s longtime home in Spruce Hall. He created a pre-professional undergraduate social welfare program in 1948 and founded the school’s doctoral program in social work in 1968. When he retired in 1971, Sunley was the longest-serving dean of social work in the nation. Established in his honor, GSSW’s Dean Emil M. Sunley Merit Award is presented annually by the dean to an MSW student in recognition of meritorious service to the school or the profession of social work.


  • 1970s

    1978–85: Leverne McCummings, Dean

    Following 15 years as a public school teacher, social worker and social services administrator, Leverne McCummings (1932–2015) earned his doctorate in social work from Ohio State University in 1975. His areas of expertise included group work, administration, health and aging. He spent two years as a faculty member at Syracuse University School of Social Work and then joined the GSSW faculty in 1977 as an associate professor. He became the school’s third dean in 1978 and served as president of the Council of Deans and Directors from 1982 to 1985. His tenure as dean was marked by a severe financial crisis at the University, which considered consolidating GSSW with the School of Professional Psychology and College of Education. McCummings left the University to serve as president of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, which is one of the nation’s oldest historically Black colleges. McCummings was the first person of color to serve as director or dean of GSSW and was the first Black graduate dean at the University of Denver.

    1971–78: Kenneth W. Kindelsperger, Dean

    The school’s second dean was Kenneth W. Kindelsperger (1914–2000), who held a doctorate from the Syracuse School of Social Service Administration. Following service in World War II, he was secretary for planning and research for the Council of Social Agencies in Syracuse, New York. He then joined the social work faculty at the University of Buffalo and served as dean of social work programs at Syracuse University and the University of Louisville before joining the University of Denver. Committed to international social work, he worked in India for two years and made two visits to South Vietnam as a consultant for the Agency for International Development. He was active in the U.S. civil rights movement, and at GSSW, he increased the number of faculty of color and the number of MSW and PhD students of color. He served as the University’s interim vice chancellor for academic affairs (1978–79) and was acting dean of the Colorado Women’s College in 1980–82 when it merged with the University. Kindelsperger received the Outstanding Service to the University of Denver Award in 1986

People of Purpose Today


Who are the changemakers who will transform social work knowledge, education and practice into the future? Nominate influential faculty, staff, students and alumni.

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