It’s that time of year again! On Friday, June 9, members of the GSS community gathered in the Bateman room at Fordham’s Law School for a GSS Reunion at the 2023 Fordham Alumni Block Party!
Block Party festivities began at 3:30 p.m. with guided tours around Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, located in the heart of NYC’s Upper West Side. A musical performance followed from 5 – 6 p.m. in the Lowenstein building’s Pope Auditorium, featuring a medley of Fordham’s talented student and faculty jazz musicians:
- Walter Blanding – Tenor Saxophone (Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra)
- Noelle King, FCRH ’23 – Vocals (Major: International Political Economy)
- Andrew Shapiro, FCLC ’25 – Alto Saxophone (Major: Theater & Music)
- Peter Wu, FCLC ’25 – Flute (Major: Mathematics)
- Nathan Decusatis – Piano (Faculty)
- Kevin Farrell – Bass (Faculty)
- Daniel Deeney, FCLC ’26 – Drums (Major: Classics)
From 6 – 7:30 p.m., GSS alumni, faculty, staff, and friends met to celebrate another successful school year and our alumni’s career accomplishments.
The theme of this year’s reunion was “Celebrating Social Work,” an opportunity for everyone to salute the profession that has given us so much. The event highlighted the field as a vocation of possibilities, allowing those with a social work education to pursue many meaningful careers and job positions.
Hearing from Our Alumni and Community Partners
Two speakers addressed attendees to further amplify social work’s boundless opportunity. Their experience in the field served as the perfect example of an MSW’s versatility.
The first speaker was Susan Matloff-Nieves. Matloff-Nieves is currently the Vice President for Innovation and Justice at Goddard Riverside Community Center, a long-time partner of Fordham GSS. A long career in the settlement house setting, she said, has given her the privilege of working with both people and policy.
“In my career, I’ve met with kids, and national leaders on policy,” she said. “That’s the kind of work that has driven me through the years.”
Matloff-Nieves spoke about Goddard’s focus areas — Preparing Youth and Children for Success, Supporting Self-Sufficiency and Financial Independence, Enriching the Lives of Older Adults, Promoting Behavioral Health and Wellness, Fighting Homelessness and Supporting Housing for All, and Strengthening Families and Communities —with great pride.
“Every one of these areas came from a community in need,” she said. “To be able to work on all of them at once is an amazing privilege.”
To finish her talk, Matloff-Nieves advised GSS alumni to “look for places that invest in your growth” when searching for career opportunities. She also gave sage advice for when things get difficult.
“Remember,” she said, “there’s a reason [you are]suffering, and it will help someone.”
The event’s second speaker took a non-traditional approach to her social work career. Harleny Vasquez, GSS ‘18, is a social work career coach, as well as the founder and CEO of yourEVOLVEDmind, a career consulting firm dedicated to supporting social workers in all stages during their career development.
“GSS did a wonderful job of teaching us our social work foundations,” she said, “but now it is up to us. Social work is what you make of it.”
Vasquez frequently returns to GSS to hold career workshops for graduating MSW students. As a consultant, social media influencer, and podcast host, she knows more than anyone about the versatility of an MSW degree.
“You hold the power to utilize your social work degree to design the career you desire,” she said.
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Linda White-Ryan, Ph.D., added that just because you choose one path—in social work or otherwise—doesn’t mean you need to live with it forever. A former registered nurse, White-Ryan knows that better than anyone.
“Social work provides us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves over and over,” she said.
Recognizing Important Work
Matloff-Nieves and Vasquez weren’t quite finished after their talks ended, but they didn’t know that. To the speakers’ surprise and delight, White-Ryan presented the GSS Community Partner Award and the GSS Alumni Service Award, respectively, to Matloff-Nieves and Vasquez for their individual contributions to New York and Fordham:
The GSS Community Partner Award honors an individual who embodies professional social work values and meaningfully impacts the individuals and communities they serve. Recipients are committed advocates for those most vulnerable among us and catalysts for systemic and organizational change. Finally, awardees have earned a reputation for promoting human rights, social justice, and anti-racism – personifying what it means to be a social worker today.
Recipient: Susan Matloff-Nieves
The GSS Alumni Service Award honors an individual who is dedicated in their support of the Graduate School of Social Service and its mission. Through their actions and unwavering professionalism, recipients of this award serve as a steller and consistent role model for all GSS students. Awardees play a vital role in the education of GSS students helping to prepare the next generation of knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate social work professionals and leaders.
Recipient: Harleny Vasquez
A Presidential Send-off
The night ended with a visit from Fordham President Tania Tetlow. Although a lawyer by trade, Tetlow is no stranger to social work. She previously led the Domestic Violence Clinic at Tulane Law School, which also had a JD/MSW joint program (so does Fordham, by the way).
“The social work students taught the law students so much about reality,” she said.
Tetlow said she is “in awe” about the things GSS alumni accomplish in the social work field, working to fix systems and make a difference.
“Thank you for making Fordham proud,” she said. “On behalf of the people you serve and the school that loves you, congratulations.”
Take a look at some pictures from the night: