Members and friends of Fordham’s social service program gathered at the Lincoln Center campus on June 15 to mark both the close of the academic year and the expansion of the school’s undergraduate social work program.
The gathering included several students from the Lincoln Center and Westchester bachelor’s of social work (BASW) program and their individual field instructors, who guided the students through their internships.
Each student had recently completed at least 570 hours of fieldwork over the last nine to eleven months, as required by Fordham’s program. Fresh off their first professional venture in social work, the students spoke about their experiences as interns in various social service agencies—experiences that, according to the students, oscillated between trying and rewarding.
“I learned a lot about the interpersonal relationship between myself and a client,” said Chrissy Forgione, a recent BASW graduate who interned at an affordable housing unit that helped formerly homeless adults into housing. “Not to mention being younger than all the tenants, so learning how to be the one sitting behind the desk rather the adult in the room.”
Ralph Brewer De La Rosa, a BASW graduate and soon-to-be master’s of social work student at Fordham, recalled a client he worked with at Reality House, Inc., a substance abuse treatment center. After several frustrating and unsuccessful weeks with his client, Brewer De La Rosa tapped into the young man’s love of boxing to motivate him to adopt a positive attitude and make substantial changes in his life.
The episode, he said, illuminated what it means to genuinely listen to the client.
“I got to see this young man complete the program. He was offered a scholarship to a university, had gotten a job… and invested in a sense of self-respect and pride. I saw him transform right before my eyes,” Brewer De La Rosa said. “It made the coursework that I encountered here at Fordham come alive, and made it really stick.”
The celebration also marked an important turn for Fordham’s social work program, now that undergraduates can declare social work as their primary major. Previously, students who studied social work were required to double-major in another field, such as sociology or psychology.
In addition, these students can apply the credits they earn as undergraduates toward a master’s degree should they be accepted into Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service (GSS).
“Fordham does such a good job of helping students to think about being of service in the world,” said Rachelle Kammer, Ph.D., assistant professor and coordinator of field instructions for the BASW program. “Exposure to that mentality makes social work, for many students, a natural fit. So the more we can let people know that this program exists, the better.”
Peter Vaughan, Ph.D., dean of GSS, also made an appearance at the event, thanking the field instructors for their dedication to the students’ academic and personal growth.
“The responses we get from students are that they love the program,” Vaughan said. “They never forget their field instructors, who helped them learn so much.”
— Joanna Klimaski