skip to main content

The Future of Social Work: Fordham GSS Celebrates the Class of 2024


Social work now has 650 new changemakers.

On Tuesday, May 21, at 10 a.m., the Graduate School of Social Service celebrated our Class of 2024 with a diploma ceremony on Edwards Parade at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. 

Melanie Hills

“I really cannot say enough good things about GSS as a school and the people that are such an integral part of every student’s experience,” said student speaker Melanie Hills, GSS ‘24. “This school has provided us with more opportunities than we could have ever imagined.”

 Hills—who completed GSS’s Summer London program and inaugural four-month internship at Coinstreet Community Builders Neighborhood House in England—will begin her social work career at the Wheeler Health and Wellness Clinic. 

“I must admit that while I’m excited to go out there and make a difference, I am jealous of the incoming students just beginning their MSW journey,” she said.

No [Social Worker] Is an Island

Commencement keynote speaker Roger Ball, Ph.D., GSS ‘02, GRE ‘10, ‘15, reminded graduates that completing your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is not the end of your education, but the beginning. Luckily, he said, Fordham graduates have a passionate network of GSS Community members graduating beside them, in the field already, and coming up through the ranks. 

“You are part of an amazing community with far reaches,” he said. “Our Fordham graduates are working in corporate America, hospital systems, foster care and adoption agencies, justice and correctional facilities…Get close to these allies so that you can get closer to the intransigent policies that spell oppression for our world.”

Roger Ball, Ph.D.

Where the magic for social workers comes, Ball continued, is in the ability to flex their networking and engagement skills with a penchant for data-driven outcomes. This combination turns a passionate advocate into an unstoppable force. 

“Make sure you know your data, and use it to tell your client’s stories,” he said. “Use the scholarship to deliver better services. Know the laws and regulations, and use them to inform your practice.”  

Ball said GSS graduates should portray a “bothered excellence” that “disrupts mediocrity, homophobia, xenophobia, racism, inertia, and the narrative of looking for the broken parts.” 

“See the beauty, the resilience, the courage, and the will to change in the clients and institutions that you will work with,” he said.    

As a Social Work Supervisor for the NYC Public School system, Ball has seen plenty of successful professionals rise through the ranks. As an adjunct professor at GSS for 15 years, he has inspired countless students on their journey to become “healers” of society. He said the years go by, but the mission stays the same. 

“We are social workers. We are healers,” he said. “Now, go out and do some amazing work.”

An Experience That Provides More Than Knowledge

Graduate School of Service Dean Debra M. McPhee, Ph.D., spoke about the holistic experience of an M.S.W. degree program and how it teaches students the intangibles necessary to thrive in the field. She noted the inherent transformative nature of social work and how one voice can lift many to healing and empowerment. 

“Your social work education has provided you with more than knowledge. You have learned to listen deeply, to advocate with compassion, and to act with integrity,” she said. “You know change often starts with a single act of kindness, a single voice of reason, supported by an unyielding commitment to transformation and healing.”

Dean Debra M. McPhee, Ph.D.

Additionally, McPhee echoed Ball in saying that the GSS community’s strength lies in its lifelong connection. Graduates aren’t alone as they face a world strife with political polarization, persistent injustice, and global crises. 

“Take comfort in the knowledge that you do not go alone,” she said. “You are now part of a long legacy of outstanding Fordham social workers. May you always find strength in our shared unity and purpose.”

Fordham University President Tania Tetlow applauded graduates for their commitment to human rights and social justice in a field where a holistic view of person-in-environment parallels the Jesuit tenet of cura personalis. Tetlow, who worked with social workers during her time as the director of Tulane University’s Domestic Violence Clinic, has been a vocal supporter of GSS’s mission and its students.

Wherever they Go, Social Workers Have an Impact

Society needs social workers. Fordham M.S.W. graduates are in schools, hospitals, nonprofit agencies, government, corporate organizations, and everywhere in between. 

This education is versatile. It makes you adaptable. Whether you work clinically one-on-one with clients or advocate for policy change that will impact countries, social workers have an unmatched skillset for solution-building. Social workers meet people where they are and empower them to be the best versions of themselves. 

An M.S.W. does not set you on one defined trajectory. Instead, you become an invaluable asset to a variety of organizations and industries with the same goal in mind — make the world a better place, one day at a time.

We trust the Class of 2024 will embody a “bothered excellence” as they flourish in their careers. We know they will not settle for good enough. They will go forth and set the world on fire. 

Please check out some of our favorite moments from the day here.


Comments are closed.