On Monday, June 5, members of the GSS Community gathered virtually for our school’s second annual Adjunct Summit.
The adjunct summit was created last year to celebrate the achievement of the school year, particularly the important work of our GSS adjunct faculty. As one of the nation’s largest schools of social work, Fordham GSS relies on these critical educators to help upcoming generations of future professionals prepare to be advocates and change agents.
“We’re here tonight to acknowledge and celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of our adjunct faculty,” said Dean Debra M. McPhee, Ph.D., in her opening remarks. “We could not do what we do at GSS without you.”
Part of the event program was dedicated to presenting this year’s Adjunct Teaching Award. The award goes to a GSS adjunct with a passion and love for educating. They embody the GSS and Fordham values of human rights, social justice, and caring for the whole person. Awardees are revered by their students and colleagues and are valued members of the GSS community.
This year’s Adjunct Teaching Award recipient was Roger Ball, Ph.D. Ball is a long-time member of the Fordham family, earning two master’s degrees from Fordham (one being an M.S.W. from GSS), and a doctorate from the Graduate School of Education. Alongside his duties as an adjunct, Ball is a clinical social worker licensed by NYS for over 20 years. He works within New York City Public Schools as the Supervisor of Social Workers for the Borough of the Bronx.
“The business of teaching and learning, for me, is everything,” Ball said in his acceptance speech.
Ball stressed the importance of teachers establishing a true connection with their students throughout the learning process. For him, teaching is more than lesson plans and lectures; it is a collaborative process stemming from love.
“The classroom is where we get the opportunity to not only teach the curriculum, but is where our students discover that their teacher loves them — that they are not just a number but a person in front of us with knowledge and skills,” he said. “When we create the kind of safe and brave learning environment, they not only become our students but our colleagues.”
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Linda White-Ryan, who has worked with Ball throughout his tenure at GSS, remarked how Ball’s teaching style has impacted GSS students.
“Students follow him through the program depending on what course he’s teaching at the time,” she said. “He’s a very skills-based teacher, and ensures they are going out into the profession with the skills they need.”
White-Ryan even shared a recent anecdote involving the 2023 GSS Graduation Diploma Ceremony student speaker Dominique Wallace-Mills, who insisted she quote her favorite teacher when addressing her fellow graduates.
“Dominique said, ‘I must quote my favorite professor,’” White-Ryan said. “Of course it was Roger. She had gotten so much from being his student. Roger is truly a partner. He’s so student-centered.”
GSS Professor Janna Heyman, Ph.D., has worked closely with Ball and NYC Public Schools establishing a school social worker field placement pipeline program for GSS students. She commended his energy throughout each project and meeting “whether it’s 8 a.m. or 11 p.m.”
Other notable attendees include Gillian Smith, Ball’s direct supervisor and a principal in the NYC Public Schools system, who touted the passion Ball brings to the classroom, noting that in those settings, “You can’t tell if you’re in a professional learning session or a church session.” Additionally, Senikha Ball—Ball’s wife—was in attendance, and smiled when she added, “That’s the man I married.”
GSS Associate Professor Yvette Sealy gave the last words of congratulations to Ball and had a message for everyone in the room to take inspiration from his storied career.
“It chokes us up to know we make an impact,” she said. “We all are someone’s Dr. Ball. Let’s all hold on to that to recommit and rededicate to do the work we do.”
The event ended with an hour-long continuing education workshop titled “Living Cura Personalis: Supporting Our Students’ Mental Health During Difficult Times.”
The Graduate School of Social Service appreciates all of our adjunct faculty and all they do for the GSS Community! We hope events and honors like these communicate our gratitude for their hard work!