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2024 Graduation Award Recipients


The Graduate School of Social Service is proud to announce the award and scholarship recipients for the Class of 2024. For more on the 2024 Commencement, please visit our website.

2024 Graduation Student Speaker

melanie hills in a london phone booth holding a stuffed ram toyMelanie Elizabeth Hills

“This is for sure such a huge honor, that I wasn’t expecting at all. I have loved every moment of my MSW journey and I have connected with many other students and professors throughout my time at Fordham GSS which has been instrumental in my success and shaping me into the best social worker. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak at the diploma ceremony this year to express gratitude toward the professors and GSS in general, and celebrate the class of 2024’s achievements. It definitely feels like the years of hard work and dedication have paid off, and I am so lucky to represent my class with a chance to leave a lasting impression on them and be a part of marking the end of our Fordham chapter as MSW students, and starting our next chapters!”

Dr. Peter B. Vaughan NASW Student Award (New York City)

cynthia pai headshotCynthia J Pai

“I am so grateful to receive the Dr. Peter B. Vaughan NASW Student Award. To be recognized for how deeply I care about this work, and how it impacts the communities that I have the privilege of knowing and serving is truly an honor and gift. I am so proud to be a social worker. There are simply no words to describe my endless gratitude for my peers and professors at Fordham GSS, whose guidance and support truly have kept me inspired, challenged, and encouraged throughout my 3 year MSW journey. THANK YOU to my family for their unconditional love and support. Congratulations Class of 2024 – it wasn’t easy but we did it!! Let’s keep showing up for the world with compassion and great hope!!”

NASW Student Award (Connecticut)

melissa malley headshotMelissa E Malley

I am humbled and honored to receive the NASW Student Award for Connecticut. Pursuing social work was a career change inspired by my undergraduate experience at Fordham. This award affirms my decision to take a leap of faith into a career path grounded in the Jesuit values of service and transformation. I am grateful to all the incredible faculty members I’ve encountered along the way, especially Dr. Elaine Congress and Holly Fancher, who held space for me to explore the field and fostered my interest in combining micro and macro practice. Balancing the intensity of a full-time MSW program with competing obligations would not have been possible without the support of my family and incredible partner. I am committed to upholding social work values in a career of service, striving to make a positive impact on the world.”

St. Peter Claver Award

headshot of harvey cruzHarvey Salvador Cruz

“At Fordham, my journey went beyond academics—it was a profound personal evolution. As a Dominican man from the Bronx and a veteran, the path to my MSW was challenging, yet each obstacle revealed new resilience. With support from my Fordham community, we navigated coursework, formed lasting bonds, and emerged stronger. Receiving The St. Peter Claver Award validates my journey, a testament to perseverance, growth, and belonging. It propels me forward with renewed purpose to make a difference.”


bernice gaspardBernice Lorna Gaspard

“Receiving the St. Peter Claver Award is humbling. St. Claver’s dedication to serving the enslaved resonates deeply with my own experiences working alongside underserved communities. My fieldwork with disadvantaged children, challenging yet rewarding, instilled in me a passion for social justice. Carrying that passion forward, my UN macro placement and involvement in the Period Poverty initiative in Colombia, allowed me to contribute more directly to empowering those in need. This award serves as a powerful affirmation of the importance of this work, and motivates me to continue striving towards a more equitable future.”

kailey mcGarveyKailey Marie McGarvey

“It’s nice to be recognized for my work over the past few years. Gratitude to Melissa Lippiello, Dr. Aguilar, and David Vidaurre for helping students shape the curriculum to meet their individual interests. This allows students to do the most impactful work.  Love to my day one cousins, Tess and Gabe, for nurturing my thought-whispers into full blown ideas.”

amy ortizAmy Lynn Ortiz

“I am honored to receive the St. Peter Claver Award, named for a man whose life exemplified compassion and advocacy for the marginalized. As a woman, this recognition not only celebrates my academic achievements but also reaffirms my commitment to serving others. I am grateful for the opportunities and support that have shaped my journey thus far, and I look forward to continuing to make a positive impact in the future.”


melissa hubbardMelissa E Hubbard

“I want to thank the GSS graduation award committee for selecting me to receive the CICNY Award. I am truly honored and humbled by this recognition. During my time at Fordham, I felt that it was critical to engage in honest conversations that helped to educate and reframe the negative systemic racial stereotypes about African Americans that still exist, including within the social work profession. The best way to achieve this is through the lens of love, which is the foundation of my faith as a Christian and the guide that enables me to live in a country and world that devalues the precious lives and worth of Black people daily. I selected the following Bible verses from James (Jacob) 2:8-9 in the Passion Translation Bible(TPT) because I felt that they encapsulate the spirit and heart of how we, as individuals and as practitioners, can help achieve true social justice.”

The Esther Jean Arnhold Award

riya lernerRiya A Lerner

“I am thrilled and honored to receive the Esther Jean Arnhold Award for embracing the arts in social work. Transitioning from a career in the arts, I have found joy in exploring its intersection with social work. Both fields provide powerful tools for understanding human relationships and driving social change. I believe integrating the arts in social work can expand access and deepen insights into critical research, theory, policy, and practice. I am deeply grateful for the guidance of my faculty mentor, Dr. Sameena Azhar, who has supported my efforts to interpret data through visual means. I look forward to further developing these approaches in my future endeavors in social work.”

anita ramanAnita M Raman

“The opportunities I’ve had during my journey at Fordham have cultivated the essence of who I will be as a social worker. I began this journey knowing I wanted to help people but unsure of how and where to start. Whether it was my experience as a student ambassador, studying abroad, or the GSS professors challenging me in becoming a leader and advocate, I learned the foundational skills to becoming a social worker. What solidified my passions, however, was the PIPELINE for youth fellowship. I’ve seen through my internships in working with various age groups how work with youth can be so instrumental in changing the trajectory of one’s life. “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach”. I hope to be that source of support and light for our future generations. I am incredibly honored to receive the Esther Jean Arnhold Award in recognition for my work with youth and attribute my success and ability to pursue my dreams to the love and support of my family and the opportunities Fordham provided me. Excited to continue the journey!”

Ann Walsh Award

rachel gentileRachel Elisabeth Gentile

“I am incredibly grateful to have been awarded the Ann Walsh Award for my commitment to social change. As a dual degree candidate in social work and public health, and a mom of three, this recognition is a reminder that even amidst the chaos, every small action towards a more equitable and empathetic society matters. My experience at Fordham has given me both the valuable skills and lasting connections to enact meaningful change in health equity.”


Rupal M Patel

“I am truly honored to receive the Ann Walsh Award. I’ve spent the last three years at Fordham cultivating a deeper understanding of myself and the communities in which I belong be it Fordham GSS, the tiny immigrant neighborhood in Queens where I’ve spent most of my life, or the safe haven New York City has become for so many marginalized populations. In a world where compassion is a rare gem, I am proud to be part of the next generation of social workers who are here to be the architects of positive transformation, weaving the threads of empathy and justice back into the fabric of our society.”

John G. Sullivan Award

johanna millerJohanna Miller

“I am honored to receive the John G. Sullivan Award. As a social worker and a human being, I believe safe, adequate housing is an inalienable human right that is far too often treated as a privilege. In a city as wealthy and progressive as New York, we have allowed thousands of our neighbors, many of them children, to live in shelters or in unstable living conditions. This is a failure of policy and empathy that I would be privileged to have any part in correcting over the course of my career.”


Jessica Gia Novo

The Kathy and Brian MacLean Scholarship in Palliative Care

Rachel C Beauregard

“I was privileged to be part of the 2023/2024 Palliative Care Fellowship. After this year, I now recognize the reciprocal and transformative nature of Hospice and Palliative care work, in which the ultimate goal is improving the patient’s and family’s quality of life. Being surrounded by fellows with like-minded values and receiving mentorship, professional guidance, educational opportunities, and scholarship determined and comforted my goals and trajectory. My field placement was at MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care, where I worked with an adult and a pediatric population. Having the opportunity to experience working in the pediatric hospice field was a request of mine, and I am extremely grateful to MJHS for having trusted and supported me as an intern in working with this vulnerable population.”

Fortunata Anne Campbell

Renata Eski

Molly McCullen

“I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to participate in Fordham’s Palliative Care Fellowship this past year. In my first year at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service, I weighed carefully if and how I wanted to proceed with the jump to palliative care social work. After completing my fellowship year and my internship at Bellevue Hospital, I can say that not only am I grateful for the experience and learning opportunities provided by the fellowship but also that I feel prepared and excited for a career in palliative care social work. During my internship at Bellevue, I was able to gain experience in in-patient oncology, outpatient palliative care, and in-patient palliative care consult service. I provided emotional support to patients and families contending with the challenges of serious illness, hospitalization, and end-of-life and helped facilitate integral goals of care discussions with our interdisciplinary team of nurse practitioners, doctors, social workers, and chaplains. I helped patients consider and complete advance directives and helped families navigate resources and the healthcare system. The experience was extremely valuable and rewarding and I felt supported by Dr. Berkman, my cohort of fellows, and our academic adviser through the entire process.”
Christine Tabone
Kirsten M Wyatt
“Being a part of the Palliative Care Fellowship was an incredible educational opportunity that has thoroughly prepared me for a career as a palliative social worker. Through my placement at Mount Sinai Hospital, I gained invaluable experience working with  an interdisciplinary team to holistically support the needs of patients and families as they navigate the impact of their life-limiting illness. Additionally, the fellowship offered me one-on-one mentorship and the chance to learn and engage with leaders in the field. It is one of my deepest honors to be a Fordham Palliative Care Fellow.”

Fordham Hartford Partnership Program in Aging Education 

jarely salcedo-coytJarely G. Salcedo-Coyt

“I am honored and grateful to receive the 2023-2024 Hartford Partnership Program for Aging Education (HPPAE) Scholarship. Being able to continue this interest of mine with Fordham has made the experience rich and meaningful. It is safe to say, when I was awarded this scholarship, it became one of the most significant events of my professional social work career. This scholarship has helped continue my interest in aging and health in the field of social work. The field of aging only continues to grow and social workers are highly needed!”

Uptown Inter-Agency Council for the Aging Beatrice M. Goldberg Scholarship 

Gabrielle C. Seredowych

The Thea Bowman, Ph.D., F.S.P.A., Research Award

James Michael Amarante

Children and Families Institute Scholarship

Justin A Di Lalla

Allegra Benveniste Honigman Award

Nicolas Martin Reda


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