This fall, Purdue University North Central graduate Zach Burns, of Valparaiso, will begin his graduate studies at the University of Chicago.
Burns, a Social Work major at PNC, was awarded a scholarship by the University of Chicago to attend the School of Social Service Administration. He intends to become a licensed clinical social worker and practice as a therapist when he completes his master’s degree.
“I have always had an inclination that I wanted to help people,” said Burns. He’s spent most of his life volunteering to help others in one way or another.
In seventh grade he was part of a “grandparents program” and visited nursing home residents.
“We would provide much needed company to the residents. I was exhilarated by the joy I got in bringing smiles to the residents faces,” he explained.
At PNC, he volunteered with student groups who made several trips to Tutwiler, Miss., to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity.
“I saw the need for help and I saw a path to provide it,” said Burns of his experience. “I saw the inequalities inherent in poverty stricken communities. The hunger and despair was evident by simply glancing at the people we were helping. In the privilege of having the ability to help these people was the solidification of my desire to practice social work.”
Since that time, he has dedicated much of his free time to volunteering. He has volunteered at the Moraine House and Respite House in Valparaiso and Porter-Starke Services. He’s volunteered with the Porter County Animal Shelter and is a member of the Valparaiso Family and Youth Service Bureau Board of Trustees.
Burns has a variety of interests. He founded the PNC Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club in 2010 and was an instructor since its inception. He’s been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor since 2004 and trains at Corral’s Martial Arts in Valparaiso.
He was a member of the PNC Social Work Club and a member of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology.
Right now, he’s working for Creative Interventions Counseling.
But he is particularly looking forward to starting graduate school.
“I’m having trouble finding a good way to convey how honored and privileged I feel,” said Burns. “Ever since I developed an interest in social work, I’ve wanted to study at the University of Chicago. I’m thrilled just to be accepted, let alone earn the scholarship.
Throughout my classes at PNC, I used articles from academic journals written by some of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration faculty. Aside from feeling a little intimidated, I am very excited to learn from them.”
Burns has found a way to fix his academic and leisure activities. “I lead a very structured lifestyle,” he explained. “I found that by taking good care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally I can successfully manage several interests.”
The PNC Social Work program gave Burns a strong foundation for his graduate studies.
“PNC has a reputation of producing competent and successful graduates. I enjoyed the small class sizes. I established close and meaningful relationships with my professors and other students. I knew that I wanted to study social work and I knew that PNC has a great social work program.
“I absolutely would recommend PNC. Throughout my education at PNC, I never once had a professor who was inaccessible or unavailable when I needed help. The social work faculty was continually inspiring and I am very grateful for them. Faculty members outside of the social work curriculum who inspired me were Dr. Frederick Patten, professor of Sociology and Dr. Kim Scipes, associate professor of Sociology. They were incredibly passionate about their subjects. They were attentive to student’s questions and did a great job of eliciting creative thoughts from them.”