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My Manchester Story

Barb Burdge

by Mam Samba | Mar 26, 2019

Director of Social Work, Chair of Sociology and Criminal Justice

What brought you to Manchester?

“I had been teaching social work at a different college for a couple years before coming to Manchester and when the position opened up at Manchester there were two things that brought me here. One is the mission of the school, the people who were here, and the very authentic way in which everybody I met here was working very hard to carry out that mission. The values of our institution permeated throughout the day I interviewed here. The staff and the friends that I had here – just to hear them talk about Manchester… I could tell there was just something very different about Manchester. And, the values here align perfectly with my personal values in a way that I had not experienced at previous employers. So, I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to – I felt like I was going to be a better person by working here. The other thing that brought me to Manchester is the fact that my family has an old homestead in Wabash County and it had always been my dream to purchase that, live there, and fix it up and renovate it. So getting – joining the faculty at Manchester made that very possible. Two years after joining the faculty here, my partner and I moved to the homestead, fixed it up, got it listed on the national register of historic places—we brought it back to life and live there.”

What got you interested in social work?

“It’s mission as well as its alignment with my own personal values. Specifically, its emphasis on social justice. Working to end all types of oppression and challenge discrimination and work toward equality – that’s something that’s explicitly part of social work’s mission that is not necessarily part of the mission that other helping professions have. So that’s why I chose social work as opposed to some other helping professions.”

Are you working on any research or special projects?

“I’m still hoping to publish an article or two out of my dissertation which was on the lived experiences of transgender adults living in the Midwest. I’ve published one article from that but I’d still like to publish some more in the next couple of years. But I’m working on some other projects with Katy Gray Brown and Andrew Duffy, who has been an adjunct here off-and-on in the last few years. The project is on conflict transformation curriculum for Parkview health systems, so Parkview can train all their people on what’s basically a Manchester model of conflict resolution.”

What is your favorite class to teach?

“I like teaching all the classes I teach. I teach both social work classes and gender studies courses, and I like them both a lot for different reasons. In gender studies, I teach a first-year seminar on LGBT issues, I teach intro to gender studies, and I teach introduction to queer studies. I love teaching all of those because they – the content in those courses can just sometimes blow people’s minds – like the idea that sex and gender aren’t the same thing. So, I love teaching the gender studies courses. Another reason I really love teaching the FYS on LGBT issues and introduction to queer studies is because when I was in college and coming out and struggling with my own identity and my own internalized homophobia, um, I needed classes like that. Having classes like that at the time would have made my life so much easier and saved me a lot of heartache and pain. And, so, I want to be the gay professor that I needed when I was in college that I didn’t have.”

What are you involved in on campus?

“I am one of two faculty advisors for United Sexualities and Genders, I’m faculty advisor of the Social Service Club, and I do the Celebrating Diversity Workshops that are offered at least once a semester. I’m also on faculty’s Executive Committee, I’m on Academic Governance Council, I’m on the Diversity Inclusion Council, Gender Studies Council, the Title IX team – I have a lot of committee assignments.”

Are you involved in anything off campus?

“In the community I’m on three boards of directors – the Bowen Center, the Roann Public Library (the library that my great-great-grandmother founded), and I’m on the board of an organization called Roann’s Community Heritage, which is a historic preservation group.”

What is your favorite thing about Northeast Indiana/Fort Wayne?

“I love that my name is on the big building downtown. If you’re at The Mainview, look across the street to the building with the steeple-shaped tower on top and you’ll see “Burdge”. I’m sure I’m related to that person, but I’ve never been able to connect the dots. I like living close to my family. I like living in the country and having the freedom that comes with rural living but also being in close enough proximity to urban areas and “vacationing” to Indy, Fort Wayne, Chicago – places like that. But I like living where I can see the sunset and the stars and where my dogs can run around freely in the yard.”

What are your hobbies and interests?

“Well dogs. We have two dogs: a border collie and an Australian shepherd mix. They’re like our kids and we love them like crazy. We also have two horses. And my partner Marsha and I like movies, we like camping in the summer, we like to travel – we’ve traveled pretty extensively in the U.S. and globally. One of my favorite places is Ireland. I’ve been there twice – once in the north and once in the epublic. I also love Amsterdam – I’ve been there twice. My whole family took a big trip to Alaska two years ago and that was amazing.”

What is something most people don’t know about you?

“Most people don’t know that I started college as a saxophone major. The summer before my junior year I changed my major to psychology, and so I got my bachelor’s degree in psychology. After that, I got my masters and doctorate in social work. But yeah – I started at IU with a major in saxophone.”