Michael Fitzgerald to Serve As Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair in Regional Studies for 2024-25

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Michael Fitzgerald, recently retired commissioner at the Madison County Department of Social Services (DSS), has been appointed to serve as Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair in regional studies for the 2024–25 academic year. Fitzgerald brings a wealth of practitioner experience, a deep commitment to community, and a strong relationship with the Upstate Institute and ɫɫ. 

“We are particularly excited to have Mr. Fitzgerald on campus as a practitioner of community-based work who will bring a wealth of real-world experience to our faculty and students,” said Upstate Institute Director and Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Catherine Cardelús.

2024-25 Burke Chair Michael Fitzgerald headshot

Fitzgerald will team teach ENST 450: Community-Based Study of Environmental Issues with Cardelús in the fall. In the spring, he will co-teach ECON 230: Economics of Poverty with Prof. Nicole Simpson. He has worked with Simpson previously, serving as a resource for her course on poverty and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. He has also worked with Prof. Andy Pattison for his ENST 390 community-based class on rural housing and served on the community board of the Upstate Institute and COVE. 

Fitzgerald received his bachelor of science from SUNY Brockport, graduating summa cum laude, and his master of public administration degree from Marist College. He joined the Madison County Department of Social Services in 1991, serving as an examiner in the public assistance unit, as a caseworker with the child protective unit, and as director of the income maintenance unit. He was named commissioner in December 2003 and oversaw a staff of 120 with a county budget of $31 million.

A member of the nominating committee of the New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA) board of directors, Fitzgerald also is the co-vice chair of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Committee on Medicaid and Human Services. He is the president of the board of directors for Stoneleigh Housing, Inc., a local low-income community housing development agency, and he is vice president of the Madison County Office for the Aging — the agency that serves at-risk seniors in Madison County.

Fitzgerald serves on many local advisory boards, including the Oneida City Youth Court, ɫɫ Upstate Institute/COVE Community Partner Committee, and the State Integrated Eligibility System Local Workgroup. He is also a past president of the NYPWA, a past member of the board at the Mid-York Child Care Coordinating Council, the Policy Council for Madison County Head Start, and the Madison County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse board of directors. He has served on numerous committees at the local and state level focusing on the restructuring of public aid and child welfare and its many components to make human services work in Madison County.

In 2001, together with Stacy Alvord, MSW, executive director of the Madison County Community Action Program, and Jill Tiefenthaler, PhD, he published a five-year study of how public assistance recipients fared after leaving the welfare roles. The study examined the lives of former welfare recipients and made recommendations for future changes in the public assistance service delivery system. He has also supervised Colgate Upstate Institute Field School Fellows and Colgate student interns at the DSS. 

The was established in 2006 by Stephen Burke ’80 and Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81. The Burke Chair aligns with the mission of the Upstate Institute to promote and advance a broad and deep understanding of the diverse cultural, social, economic and environmental resources of upstate New York through community based research, the reciprocal transfer of knowledge, and civic engagement.