When Project WISE co-founders Jean East (MSW ’79, PhD ’95) and Sue Kenney (MSW ’79) were MSW students, they were already seeking creative approaches to empowering women and families with low incomes. The Denver nonprofit they founded in 1995, and co-directed for ten years, created an innovative model of service that promotes both personal and social change by combining individual and group counseling with community advocacy and leadership development.
Begun as a small grass-roots effort, Project WISE (A Women’s Initiative for Service and Empowerment) now serves more than 300 women each year and is a popular internship site for GSSW students. By helping women develop skills to advocate for themselves and their families, the program also has influenced legislation and public policy related to welfare reform, education opportunities for welfare recipients, and protection and resources for victims of abuse.
In 2000, Project WISE received the El Pomar Foundation’s highest award. The Julie and Spencer Penrose Award recognized the program as the Colorado nonprofit that best served the state’s residents by enhancing their quality of life.
Associate Professor Jean East currently serves as GSSW’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. She was named 2003 Social Worker of the Year by NASW’s Colorado Chapter and received the University of Denver’s 2006 Distinguished Teaching Award.
Sue Kenney is an active member of GSSW’s Field Team and is the 2010 recipient of the GSSW Service Award. Both East and Kenney received a 2007 “Be Bold” Award from the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.