Social Work + Theology
Advocating for vulnerable community members
One sure sign of an excellent educational experience is when an alumnus reminds prospective students that they can reach out and ask questions. Neal Burton did just that. He wants prospective students to ask questions of alumni because he remembers what it was like to search for a degree program.
His search led him to the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW).
Finding the right fit was important. Through GSSW’s dual-degree program, he pursued a Master of Social Work (MSW) with a concentration in family systems practice and a Master of Theological Studies from the Iliff School of Theology, earning his degrees in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Burton appreciated GSSW’s interdisciplinary approach to social work. “There was enough flexibility to speak my mind in class, find the courses that most interested me, and get to know professors and classmates as individuals,” says Burton, who served in the Peace Corps in Togo prior to enrolling at GSSW. “The space to create my own experience made me invest more into my time and make it work for me.”
Today, Burton is a crisis services program manager at Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare in Astoria, Oregon. GSSW prepared him for the role through studies and practicums.
“In my current role, I am challenged to see not only how systems create opportunities for community wellness, but also how the same systems contribute to the wellness gap. At GSSW, I was able to take courses that focused on this kind of critical, but functional, approach to evaluating community services and finding areas for growth,” Burton says.
He says his GSSW practicums taught him how to play a leadership role — one that included a critique of his cultural and ethnic group privileges.
“Without this perspective, it would be challenging to find myself in a leadership position, advocating for the needs of our most vulnerable community members,” he says.