Distinguished Alumnus:
Joyce B. Burns '94
BA, Social Work

Joyce B. Burns, who received her B.A. in Social Work from WestConn in 1994, had already begun to demonstrate why the Social Work Department chose her for this alumnus award. She made Dean’s list consistently, received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Student, was inducted into the Phi Alpha Honor Society of Social Work during her undergraduate studies, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Burns was a non-traditional student, who returned to college for her degree after raising children and serving as a volunteer in a number of community service focused programs. She brought these life experiences and a commitment to human rights into the classroom to guide and enrich other student’s learning. Since graduating, Burns has stayed connected with WestConn, and has given back to the University in numerous ways — serving as an Officer of the Phi Alpha Honor Society, as a member of the Department’s Laura Duffy Scholarship Award Selection Committee, and by providing field supervision for WestConn Social Work interns where she guides and inspires yet more students.

In looking back, Burns’ path to becoming a School Social Worker seems such a logical one. She did her Senior Field Internship in a public school setting, thus the Department of Social Work takes some credit for initially spurring that particular career direction. She then pursued and earned her M.S.W. degree at Columbia University School of Social Work. Joyce’s field internship at Columbia included working with children who were living in temporary housing, extending her knowledge and interest in attending to the needs of children. Those professional training experiences cemented Joyce’s interest, and made her an ideal candidate for the position she took with the Danbury Public Schools, where she has been a Social Worker in one of Danbury’s elementary schools ever since. True to form, Burns has continued to learn, and to covert ideas into action. She completed a post-graduate Professional Certificate in Administration from Sacred Heart University in 1999, and holds an Education Certificate from the Connecticut State Department of Education. She has developed and extended many school-based services including creating crisis procedures and implementing Connecticut’s Anti-Bullying Act for her school. She has overseen a Community Partnership Action Team for parent involvement, served on Danbury’s District’s Task Force to develop integrated support services within the classrooms, and oversaw service learning and conflict resolution programs for her students. A most significant position she also holds is site facilitator of her school’s twenty-first century grant for S.A.F.E. (Students and Family Enrichment) after school program. In her spare moments, Burns continues her community service involvement in the Danbury area, with a hospice program, food pantries, a women’s health support service, and as a member of Danbury’s Character Education Advisory Council. She has received several awards for her service to the community and schools, including the Danbury Character Highlights Award and was a nominee for the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher Award. Burns’ Distinguished Alumnus presentation on service learning, Learn to Serve. Serve to Learn, reflects her interdisciplinary perspective from education and social work.

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