Take one look at Eric Shanburn’s professional resume and it’s immediately clear that his passion is to serve others. Within the past decade alone, the Michigan native has founded nonprofits in two different cities, both dedicated to connecting those living in poverty with food and some of the other most basic necessities of life.


It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that he has a wealth of insight to share with would-be social workers. Now, at Concordia University Ann Arbor, he’ll get to do just that.

As the new program coordinator of Concordia’s Bachelor of Science in Social Work program, Shanburn is charged with nurturing one of CUAA’s newer undergraduate offerings. In 2017, Concordia launched its bachelor’s in social work to meet the growing need for more skilled workers throughout the nation. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the profession is expected to grow by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, which equates to approximately 74,800 new positions.

Concordia is doing its part to meet the need by offering a truncated timeline to a master’s degree. With its master’s in social work program offered through the university’s Wisconsin campus, students who complete the CUAA bachelor’s program are eligible for advanced standing for the MSW degree at CUW. In other words, candidates could gain their bachelor’s and master’s in the field in just five years.

While helping to address a dire market need is certainly rewarding, Shanburn says what excites him the most is the chance to teach at a Christian university and to be a part of the stories of those who will go on to make a difference in the lives of others.

Related: What it means to be a Christian social worker—Concordia students share their insights

“I love supporting young people and those who are on a journey,” Shanburn says. “I’m especially pleased to be able to do that at a Christian university that values the faith formation of its students and places a priority on the integration of Christian thought into academics.”

With master’s degrees in social work and theological studies, Shanburn has made a practice of marrying his two disciplines throughout his career. He’s worked in a variety of faith-related settings, most recently as a founding director of FOCUS Gateway City (in St. Louis) and then FOCUS Detroit, both affiliates of FOCUS North America. The national FOCUS (which stands for Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding, and Shelter) is a movement of the Orthodox Church, and aims to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America.

Related: Eric Shanburn announces departure as director of FOCUS Detroit

His more recent efforts in Detroit focused specifically on connecting communities with children in need to help the youth thrive in school. For more than four years, Shanburn was the sole employee of FOCUS Detroit, and as such, he was responsible for mobilizing hundreds of volunteers, as well as interns from social work programs at the University of Michigan and Wayne State.

Social workers have to be grounded and be able to fill ourselves up so that we can devote ourselves to the other people or causes we are impacting.

“When you’re making a living out of serving others, it’s important to practice good self-care, and a strong faith foundation plays a big role with that,” Shanburn notes. “It’s something I’m glad to be able to talk openly about with future students as well.”

Shanburn says he’s excited that Concordia’s small class sizes afford him the opportunity to impart these lessons to students in a personalized manner.

“The access that students have to their professors and the CUAA staff is unprecedented,” Shanburn says. “The community and atmosphere here are special. Students won’t get lost like they might in a large social work program, and they’ll get the individual attention they deserve in order to be empowered to do great things for others.”

Learn more about CUAA’s social work program by visiting cuaa.edu/socialwork.

— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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