skip to main content

This MSW Alumni Is Mentoring Students as a Bronx School Social Worker


Ian Staley is a 2023 graduate of Fordham GSS’s Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) program. He attended Fordham’s Westchester campus as a part-time student and was a PIPELINE for Youth Health fellow in the 2022-2023 academic year. Ian now works for NYC Public Schools as a school social worker in the Bronx, and he was recently highlighted for his work in its SESIS News newsletter. 

Why did you choose social work?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to help others. I suppose my passion was first ignited by my parents, who were both public servants for Westchester County. My dad was a Probation Officer, and my mom was a Manager at the Department of Social Services. They’ve spent most of their lives not only helping people at work but at church, within my family, and out in the community. 

Before coming to Fordham GSS, I was working as an Eligibility Examiner for Westchester County. It was meaningful work: assisting families in need through the public assistance process, authorizing SNAP grants, Medicaid, and issuing emergency housing and utility grants. However, I had got to a point in my career where I wanted to have a deeper relationship with my clients. I really wanted to get into the therapeutic aspect, and I knew that I could achieve this by going to social work school. 

How did you decide you wanted to be a school social worker?

I see school social work as a great opportunity to reach the youth and affect change before they get older and are fixed into the more negative elements in society. During my time at Fordham, I took a class with Dr. Roger Ball, who is a supervisor of school social workers at NYC Public Schools, and the way he talked about his experiences piqued my interest even more and ignited within me a desire to pursue school social work. He is a wealth of knowledge, and I would not be working at NYC Public Schools if it wasn’t for him. 

I currently work with kindergarten through fifth-grade students, and it’s an opportunity to instill in them good values at an early age and to help them be able to better manage their feelings so that they’re able to do well in school and be successful in life. 

Your recent newsletter interview mentioned that you consider a child’s holistic experience when working with them in school. This sounds similar to the cura personalis environment you studied in at Fordham. Do you think that environment impacted the way you work with students today?

It definitely did! People like Dr. [Janna] Heyman, Dr. Yvette Sealy, Professor Keith Cunniffe, and [Associate Dean for Academic Affairs] Linda White-Ryan instilled in me throughout my studies to consider and nurture the whole person and to focus on building therapeutic relationships, which is paramount to this profession. I try to build those therapeutic relationships and work with the whole person, not just how they perform academically. I like to be someone that the kids can just come and talk to—a role model. 

Most students in my school are Black and Latino, and they come from disadvantaged backgrounds. I like to be someone that they can at least see themselves in. Representation matters. I’m happy to be there and be someone that they can talk to and confide in.

It seems like school social workers can serve as mentors to students. Would you agree with that?

I agree with that one hundred percent. Students look up to the school social worker. You can use your influence to offer good mentorship and guidance toward student success and healthy individuals!

I heard you and your wife met in the MSW program. Is that true?

Yes, it’s true! I think a lot of people go into school hoping to find their soulmate. I was one of those people. I was fortunate enough to find my wife, Brittany, during the Fall 2020 semester. It was still the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, classes were all remote, and we did not share any classes at the time. However, we had a chance to meet in a WhatsApp group for new students at Fordham GSS, and our love blossomed from there. Going to Fordham was the experience of a lifetime for us. From going on dates, to eventually attending classes together, planning a wedding and getting married, and finally graduating together. I thank God for it all!

Staley and his wife, Brittany, kiss on their wedding day.

Staley and his wife, Brittany!


Comments are closed.