When Stefania Giglio first began commuting to the Rose Hill campus from New City, New York, in 2016, she was unsure exactly where her undergraduate studies would take her. By the end of the year, she knew she would be a teacher.
Today, she’s working in the Nanuet, New York, school system, teaching remedial math and remote lessons to students who have to quarantine for Covid. She credits the Graduate School of Education’s (GSE) accelerated master’s program with making it possible. Because she earned 12 graduate-level credits her senior year as an undergraduate, she graduated with a Master of Science in Teaching in childhood education and special education in 2021.
“I’m really blessed, because Fordham is what stuck out on my resume, and doing the five-year program was always mentioned in every interview I did,” she said.
“People would say, ‘How did you do your master’s so quickly?’”
Because she committed to the program at the end of her first year, Giglio was able to begin interning at schools immediately, working as an undergraduate in pre-k, second, third, and fourth-grade classes. She also met with an adviser from GSE for a seminar every few weeks to talk about her progress.
In her senior year, she began splitting her time between the Lincoln Center campus, where GSE classes are offered, and the Rose Hill campus, where she finished out her undergraduate requirements. She credits her adviser, Arlene A. Moliterno, Ph.D., a clinical professor of curriculum and teaching who recently retired, with helping her, especially during the pandemic.
“When we were in her seminar, we could ask her any questions about the graduate classes we were taking. To have that support and to be able to ask questions of someone who you have already built a relationship with is amazing,” she said.
“The way Grad Ed does it is so great because it’s like stepping stones leading you to grad school and a master’s.”
Returning After a Break
Like Giglio, alumna Francesca Russo took graduate-level education classes her senior year. She graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill with an undergraduate degree in English in 2018. But after graduation, the Yonkers native decided she wanted to enter the workforce for a few years before finishing her master’s. She worked full time for four years as a fundraiser for a private school, and then re-enrolled at GSE in September, carrying with her those graduate credits she earned her senior year. She is currently taking classes part-time and hopes to teach middle or high school.
“I think my path is something that seniors might not realize is an option for them. If teaching is something they’re interested in but are not really sure about, I would encourage them to look into the five-year program, because years down the line, should they want to return to the idea of being a teacher, they’ll already have credits under their belt,” she said.
“If you don’t return to teaching, it’s still beneficial to have 4000-level courses on your transcript when you’re an undergrad. Should you decide to become a teacher, it’s not too late as long as you come back in five years,” she said.
“I loved the professors I had when I was a senior. They were always available outside class, I’ve never had trouble getting in touch with one, through via phone calls or zooms.”
An Opportunity for Self-Discovery
Marilyn Bisberg, a professor in the Graduate School of Education who is the program coordinator for the accelerated master’s, said the program, which currently has 66 students enrolled in it, has been in existence for over a decade. It’s appealing because it saves students both time and money, but there are less obvious benefits as well, she said.
Students who enroll after their first year as an undergraduate can then spend their undergraduate years deciding what it means to them to be a teacher. By the time they enroll in graduate school, they already have a sense of what age range and grade levels they want to teach, whether they want to teach in special education serving students with disabilities, and what disabilities they want to specialize in.
“The seminar and the fieldwork really helps students tease that out. From my perspective, that’s the golden egg,” she said.
“For them to start thinking about this at this point is phenomenal. A byproduct of that is that they may actually feel more motivated and purposeful in their undergrad experience. Not only are they learning in the liberal arts experience, but they’re also looking at their teachers and asking, ‘How do they teach? How can I use this as a teacher?”
Plans for Expansion
José Luis Alvarado, Ph.D., the dean of the Graduate School of Education, hopes that more Fordham undergraduate students take advantage of the program.
“Students who graduate from Fordham are proud to be undergraduates. So, it’s about getting a student to realize the benefits of continuing with their education to earn teacher certification and a master’s degree at the Graduate School of Education. It’s rare that you can finish a master’s degree and certification in one year,” he said.
Ultimately, he wants to increase enrollment to the point where undergraduate students who are pursuing the same specialties will be in their own cohorts. Many undergraduates pursuing degrees such as psychology, for example, might have an interest in teaching as a career, and the accelerated master’s program can make their career goals a reality.
“Given the number of undergraduate students who are here, there’s a fair number of them who want to be teachers,” he said, adding that GSE plans to increase outreach to undergraduate students who wish to become teachers.
“Our challenge is to help undergraduate students who wish to become teachers and connect them with our accelerated master’s program to ensure they are able to realize their career goals in an efficient manner. That’s our job.”