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Zerden and Verbiest selected as John A. Tate Early Career Scholars

Faculty members Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Ph.D., and Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, have been appointed John A. Tate Early Career Scholars for Children in Need. The newly established professorships, which were approved by UNC’s Board of Trustees, recognize a faculty member’s high level of productivity in teaching, publishing, research, and service in support of children, youth, and families as well as overall contributions to the School of Social Work community.

As part of the professorships, Zerden, senior associate dean for MSW education, and Verbiest, director of the Jordan Institute for Families, will receive a combined stipend and research fund of $12,500 each. This money will be available to recipients annually for five years or until the faculty members are promoted to the rank of full professor, whichever comes first. The awards are supported from private donations from the School of Social Work’s John A. Tate Professorship Fund.
Dean Gary L. Bowen praised Zerden and Verbiest, who he said are equally deserving of the recognition.

“Both are productive scholars who demonstrate everyday their passion and commitment to our students and to our overall social work community,” Bowen said. “With this distinction, Dr. Zerden and Dr. Verbiest are also receiving well-earned recognition for their academic and administrative leadership.”

Zerden came to UNC-Chapel Hill in 2010 and was named senior associate dean for MSW education in 2016. She serves as a clinical associate professor and as principal investigator and program director for UNC-PrimeCare, a federally funded initiative that aims to expand the behavioral healthcare workforce by rigorously preparing students to work in primary care settings as behavioral and mental healthcare specialists. Zerden’s work, which also focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention, substance use and social welfare policy, has been published in the Journal of Social Work Education, Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, Advances in Social Work, Journal of Ethnicity and Substance Abuse and others. She received her MSW from UCLA and her Ph.D. in social work and sociology at Boston University.

Zerden said she is honored to be named a Tate scholar, in part, because of Tate’s own “fierce legacy as an advocate for children and civic engagement.”

“I hope to continue my career at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work living up to these ideals and values,” she said.
Verbiest joined the School of Social Work as a clinical associate professor in July 2015 and was recently appointed director of the School’s Jordan Institute for Families. As a public health social worker, she has spent the last 20 years working to improve the health of women and babies in North Carolina and the southeast. In addition to her social work responsibilities, Verbiest serves as the executive director of the Center for Maternal & Infant Health in the UNC School of Medicine. She has been in this role since 2004, during which time she has developed the center into a nationally recognized leader with expertise in topics across the reproductive health continuum. She received her MSW from the UNC School of Social Work and her M.P.H. and DrPH from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Verbiest said she also appreciates the Tate family’s financial support, which she said will help to strengthen the innovative work that’s needed to address the infant mortality rate in North Carolina.

“I’m honored to receive this recognition and opportunity on behalf of my team and colleagues at the Jordan Institute for Families and Center for Maternal and Infant Health and our collective work and energy,” she said.