Virginia Commonwealth University

School of Social Work


For more than 100 years,  Virginia Commonwealth University’s students and world-class faculty have engaged the city of Richmond, Virginia, and surrounding communities in a constant effort to inspire change and advocate social and economic justice and understanding. We’ve forged lasting connections with more than 500 human and social service organizations throughout Richmond and the state, allowing our students to engage in field experiences that match their passions and future ambitions.

Through an innovative curriculum, diverse field experiences and ambitious and proactive research priorities, the School of Social Work informs the leaders of today and prepares the leaders of tomorrow.


Our Mission

The mission of the VCU School of Social Work is to prepare professional social workers as practitioners, scholars and leaders; to generate research and scholarship for advancing knowledge and practice; and to contribute to the local, state, national, international and professional communities to improve quality of life.



Radical Alliance for Anti-Racism, Change and Equity (RAACE)

The School of Social Work’s Radical Alliance for Anti-Racism, Change and Equity (RAACE) was formed in 2020 to address racial injustice – past and present – in social work. The group is engaged in an iterative process that is assessing various parts of the school and is developing recommendations for cultural and structural shifts with a focus on racial justice and healing. This body includes representation from staff, faculty, students, alumni and adjunct instructors.

Learn more about VCU’s Radical Alliance for Anti-Racism, Change and Equity (RAACE).

Black Lives Matter Student-Faculty-Alumni Collective

Richmond [Re]Visited

Richmond [Re]Visited is a signature BLM Collective event, exploring Richmond’s history and providing context for issues affecting social workers and community members.

Learn more about the Richmond [Re]Visited events..

Association of Black Social Workers at VCU

The Association of Black Social Workers at VCU works to empower people of African ancestry through advocacy, human services and research. ABSW sponsors a variety of educational forums and activities that address social issues and concerns of the Black community and works to develop an in-depth understanding of areas of interest, enhance leadership skills and establish a networking support system.

Learn more about this student-led organization on the ABSW Facebook page.

Queer and Trans Social Workers at VCU

The Queer & Trans Social Workers group provides a safe space for LGBTQIA+ and allied social workers to collaborate and engage in advocacy efforts. The organization also promotes awareness of LGBTQIA+ topics within the VCU social work community through curricula building, education and social events, and is open to anyone who identifies with the queer community in any way and their allies.

Learn more about this student-led organization on the QTSW Facebook page.


These degrees aren’t the end of a journey. They’re the beginning.

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work is among only 56 programs in the country to educate social workers at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. We bring emerging and established professionals at all stages of their development together in one environment because every experience brought to the table strengthens each of us as practitioners and educators.

We prepare Bachelor of Social Work graduates for beginning-level practice, Master of Social Work graduates for advanced practice and Ph.D. in Social Work graduates for the rigors of advancing and shaping the field through research and teaching:

Where passion meets precision

In the B.S.W. Program in the VCU School of Social Work, our students hone their desire to help others in ways that will allow them to truly effect change.

Through an innovative curriculum and individualized attention from faculty and mentors, our students engage the guiding principles of the profession and build a foundation of theoretical knowledge concerning human behavior and community dynamics. From that foundation, they discover diverse methods of intervention and develop the skills not only to apply those methods in a wide range of real-life settings, but to reflect upon and process their experiences.

When our students enter the field as professionals, they do so equipped with a nuanced understanding of the day-to-day demands of the job and a commitment to meeting the challenges of social work with strength and compassion.

Learn more about the B.S.W. Program at VCU.

Where the next step awaits

As social workers, we so often concern ourselves with the “next step” — for our clients, for our organizations, for our communities. But what about for ourselves? How can we continue to meet our calling in the face of new challenges? How can we continue to develop our voices as social workers?

In the Master of Social Work Program at VCU’s School of Social Work, our students seek to answer these very questions. Through intensive, specialized coursework, research and field experience, our students can truly find their focus as advanced practitioners and position themselves to make immediate impacts in the lives and communities they touch.

Featured VCU School of Social Work M.S.W. Specializations:

Learn more about the M.S.W. Program at VCU.

Advancing social justice through research and scholarship

The VCU School of Social Work Ph.D. Program prepares researchers and educators to generate, implement and communicate knowledge to advance social justice, improve human well-being, and enhance the profession’s impact on pressing social problems.

For more than a century, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work has prepared students to advance the profession’s mission by integrating and applying scientific knowledge and professional skills and values to current and emergent social problems. The Ph.D. Program, which began in 1978, furthers that agenda by preparing doctoral students as research scholars, educators and leaders in the profession.

Students enjoy individualized mentoring and a highly supportive learning environment. A wide range of Institutes and Centers complement and contribute to the School’s research activities. Situated in the state capital of Richmond and near Washington D.C., VCU is one of only 54 universities nationwide designated by the Carnegie Foundation as both “Community Engaged” and “Very High Research Activity.”

Learn more about the Ph.D. Program at VCU.


Beth Angell

Beth Angell, Ph.D.

Dean and professor

Beth Angell, Ph.D., is dean and professor at the VCU School of Social Work. Prior to assuming the deanship in 2018, Dean Angell served as a faculty member at the Rutgers University School of Social Work (2008-2018) and the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (2000-2008), and she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Policy and Practice from 1999-2000.

J. Denise Burnette, Ph.D.

Denise Burnette, Ph.D.

Samuel S. Wurtzel Endowed Faculty Chair in Social Work and professor

Denise Burnette, Ph.D., is the Samuel S. Wurtzel Professor of Social Work at VCU. Her research focuses on global mental health, with an emphasis on health and psychosocial problems and related service needs of older adults in resource-constrained settings. She has held Senior Fulbright fellowships in India and Botswana, and served as an International Scholar with the Open Society in Central Asia and the Balkans for almost a decade.

Stevara Haley Clark

Stevara Haley Clark, Ed.D.

Director of online education and assistant professor in teaching

Stevara Haley Clark, Ed.D., assistant professor in teaching, serves as the director of online education at the VCU School of Social Work. She was previously M.S.W. Program assistant director (online). Within that role, Dr. Clark enjoyed collaborating with faculty to learn and apply the best pedagogical approaches to managing an innovative online curriculum. Implementing technology to enhance relationship building and engage students in the implicit curriculum is a passion of Dr. Clark’s. She brings clinical and macro practice, curriculum development, program analysis and evaluation, and teaching experience with a personal emphasis on and dedication to working with first-generation college students and at-risk youth.

Rebecca Gomez

Rebecca Gomez, Ph.D., LCSW

Associate dean for academic and student affairs and associate professor

Rebecca Gomez, Ph.D., LCSW, is associate dean for academic and student affairs and associate professor at the VCU School of Social Work. Her practice and research expertise is child and family well-being with a particular emphasis on complex trauma, child welfare workforce development, youth empowerment, substance use and long term recovery; and the impact of substance use on family systems. Her projects have been funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Nicki Lee

Nicole L. Lee, Ph.D.

M.S.W. Program director and associate professor in teaching

Nicole “Nicki” Lee, Ph.D., is M.S.W. Program director and an associate professor in the VCU School of Social Work. An experienced social work educator, Dr. Lee has spent over a decade teaching in the M.S.W. and B.S.W. programs. Her scholarly interests include social work teaching pedagogy, program evaluation, intimate partner violence in communities of color, and the impact of health on the psychosocial functioning of individuals and communities.

Ananda Newmark, Ph.D.

Ananda Newmark, Ph.D.

B.S.W. Program director and associate professor in teaching

Ananda Newmark, Ph.D., attended the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and German in 1998. Following two years of professional practice, he returned to graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University where he graduated with his Masters of Social Work degree in 2002 from the Advanced Standing Program. Dr. Newmark entered the Ph.D. social work program at VCU in 2010 and completed his Ph.D. degree in 2016 with his dissertation titled, Student Engagement in Undergraduate Social Work Education among ‘At-risk’ Students.


It is important to acknowledge that deep systemic change defies quick and easy solutions and requires us all to commit to a continuous process of learning, unlearning, reflection, undoing and targeted action. While acknowledging both our historical and present struggles, we commit to moving forward. We resolve to center our efforts to examine and dismantle anti-Black racism, standing firmly to make the following commitments to our students and to one another.

VCU makes its commitment to inclusion real by recognizing that individuals have the right to use names other than their legal name, to identify with the gender they know themselves to be and to utilize the pronouns that best fit them.

VCU Inclusive Excellence develops and implements innovative educational programs for faculty, staff and students related to emergent trends in diversity and inclusion.

The Division for Inclusive Excellence has launched its diversity and inclusion campus ratings system that provides diversity, inclusion and engagement scores for each major unit on campus.


Ph.D. student Bouchard earns prestigious rural health fellowship

Publish date: October 19, 2021

“I’m excited to be a social worker in this space and to apply a social justice lens to the public health issues rural communities face, and to emphasize the issue of rural youth opioid use,” Leah Bouchard says.

Sharing their stories: Social work-led researchers are studying Horn of Africa migrants in greater Washington

Publish date: October 8, 2021

Building on her work with Tamil refugees in India, Associate Professor Miriam Kuttkiat, Ph.D., is leading a research team studying migrants closer to home. Sponsored by VCU’s Presidential Research Quest Fund, she and colleagues will study communities from four Horn of Africa countries now living in the Greater Washington, D.C., area: Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti. On the research team are colleague Kyeongmo Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor; and five social work graduate students.

Social work doctoral education organization recognizes professors Bentley, Burnette

Publish date: September 27, 2021

Two VCU School of Social Work faculty have been recognized by the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work. Professor Kia J Bentley, Ph.D., LCSW, is the recipient of the 2021 GADE Award for Educational Leadership in Doctoral Education. Professor and Ph.D. Program Director Denise Burnette, Ph.D., LMSW, was recently elected president of GADE for a two-year term, running through 2024.

NIDILRR awards $600K contract to Partnership

Publish date: September 10, 2021

Associate Professor Matthew Bogenschutz, Ph.D., and doctoral student Sarah Lineberry are part of an interdisciplinary team at VCU’s Partnership for People with Disabilities that was awarded a $600,000 National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research grant. The grant will measure and track personal and health outcomes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who use Medicaid home and community-based services.

Ten years later: How the KL2 Program at the VCU Wright Center trained a generation of research leaders

Publish date: September 2, 2021

Sarah Kye Price, Ph.D., was part of the first cohort of junior faculty (KL2 Scholars) focused on clinical and translational health research through VCU’s Wright Center. Now associate dean for faculty development and professor, Price says her interdisciplinary colleagues “really shaped my ability to engage with interdisciplinary partners – and consider ways to collaborate in creative ways.”

Among LGBTQ+ youth, pets can be an important source of well-being — but also stress

Publish date: July 16, 2021

A new study with multiple School of Social Work connections has found that pet ownership among sexual and gender minority emerging adults provides positive benefits but also comes with psychological stressors. The lead author is recently departed faculty member Shelby McDonald, Ph.D.; co-authors include three current Ph.D. students and two recent social work alumni.

Research grants focus on preventing adverse childhood experiences, trauma

Publish date: November 18, 2020

VCU faculty from the School of Social Work and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs are building on previous research with two new studies to better understand and prevent adverse childhood experiences and trauma through the health care, education and juvenile justice systems.

Trauma and substance abuse: how social workers can help

Publish date: October 20, 2020

Experiencing a traumatic event can impact a person’s life tremendously. Domestic violence or child abuse can bring on years of mental anguish, social anxiety or physical pain. Unfortunately, untreated trauma can lead to unhealthy behaviors, including substance misuse. People with trauma experiences often turn to drugs or alcohol as temporary coping mechanisms or self-treatment for symptoms such as shame, fear, flashbacks and poor sleep.

How do alternative schools lead to positive outcomes for at-risk students?

Publish date: April 29, 2020

Alisha Robinson, a senior in the School of Social Work, set out to study alternative education programs and how they can lead to positive outcomes for students who have been expelled or suspended long-term from other schools.

Nicole O-Pries advocates for trauma-informed care

Publish date: March 19, 2020

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Social Work professor Nicole O-Pries has over 20 years of experience developing programs for youth and families exposed to trauma. She has worked in public health organizations in Central Asia, HIV/AIDS service organizations in New York and Washington, D.C., and youth organizations in Virginia.

What is trauma-informed practice in social work?

Publish date: March 12, 2020

Trauma-informed social work requires us to recognize the signs of trauma, acknowledges the impact of trauma, identifies paths to address the effects of trauma experience, and actively prevents people from experiencing further trauma. Rather than solely focusing on problematic behaviors, trauma-informed social workers aim to understand what happened to people that caused those behaviors in the first place. They take their clients’ personal histories, vulnerabilities and triggers into consideration and tailor treatment to each individual’s complex, nuanced needs.