Social work alumna follows family legacy into the helping professions

Jodi Kapes G’97, LCSW-R
Jodi Kapes G’97, LCSW-R

Jodi Kapes G’97, LCSW-R, decided to pursue a career in the helping professions when she was in high school. “As an adolescent, I felt there were not enough adults to understand or support what teens are going through and felt it was my calling to try to change that,” she says.

Her mother was a registered nurse and her father a social worker who earned his MSW from Syracuse University. “I guess you could say it is in my genes,” she says.

Kapes finished her undergraduate degree in human services and early childhood development at Elmira College before coming to Syracuse University. “When looking at graduate programs, I wanted to expand on my studies in these areas, and SU had the best reputation,” she says. She began her MSW program with a family mental health concentration. At SU, she says, “I worked hard for my degree and was working in the field full-time while going to school.”

“[The faculty members] have so much knowledge in the field and were supportive of the students who were having real life situations at their jobs,” she adds. “They provided guidance along with theory.”

In addition to building relationships with the faculty, Kapes values the enriching projects she worked on with her fellow students. “I remember a group project examining a community in Syracuse and writing a request for proposal in response to our community needs assessment. I still use my grant writing guide to this day,” she says.

Kapes conferring with Dahlia Thorpe, DO, at the St. Elizabeth Campus of Mohawk Valley Health System
Kapes conferring with Dahlia Thorpe, DO, at the St. Elizabeth Campus of Mohawk Valley Health System

As the director of behavioral health at Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS), Kapes manages a wide range of responsibilities, including clinical duties, counseling families and patients, overseeing the licensed clinical social workers at MVHS, providing staff education and support, as well as community training.

“The most rewarding part of my work is I get to occasionally see people I have evaluated weeks or months later. I am lucky enough that they have shared with me I was helpful and my interaction helped them to stay safe,” she explains.

The School of Social Work in Syracuse University’s Falk College celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It boasts 6,586 alumni, not including roughly 130 new alumni from the Class of 2017.

Congratulations Falk faculty!

Professors Ellen deLara and Mary Ann Middlemiss at Falk Convocation.
Professors Ellen deLara and Mary Ann Middlemiss at Falk Convocation.
Professor Sarah Short and Dean Diane Lyden Murphy at retirement celebration.
Professor Sarah Short and Dean Diane Lyden Murphy at retirement celebration. Photos courtesy of Prof. Alejandro Garcia.

Dean Murphy, along with Falk College faculty and staff, congratulate faculty who retired at the end of the 2016-17 academic year, including:

  • Ellen deLara, associate professor emerita, social work;
  • Mary Ann Middlemiss, associate professor emerita, public health, and;
  • Sarah Short, professor emerita, nutrition.

In May, the following faculty promotions were announced:

  • Lynn Brann, associate professor, Nutrition
  • Ambika Krishnakumar, professor, Human Development and Family Science
  • Katherine McDonald, professor, Public Health
  • Patrick Walsh, tenured and associate professor, Sport Management

Congratulations Class of 2017!

Dean Diane Lyden Murphy, along with the faculty and staff of Falk College, congratulates the Class of 2017! We are excited to see where your careers take you. Remember that you are “forever orange” and will always be a part of Falk College and Syracuse University.

We invite you to stay in touch and connect through social media, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

As alumni, you will now receive FalkTalk, Falk College’s email newsletter for alumni, parents and friends. FalkTalk keeps you up-to-date with news headlines, student highlights, and upcoming events delivered to your inbox at the end of each semester.

Click here to learn how to stay connected to the ‘Cuse Community in regions all around the world. And please answer these quick questions on how to reach you after graduation.

We have many photos to share that recap some of the celebration events of this past week:

Check out more photos of commencement weekend on or on

Social work senior Deynaba Farah featured in the Daily Orange

Photo by Frankie Prijatel, senior staff photographer. Courtesy of the Daily Orange.

Deynaba Farah: Senior uses Muslim faith to influence positive change in Syracuse community

By Jackie Frerestaff writer. Courtesy of the Daily Orange.

When Deynaba Farah was 15 years old, she had trouble falling asleep at night. As she drifted to sleep in her bedroom, filled with Syracuse basketball memorabilia and an overflowing bookshelf filled with novels like “The Mis-Education of the Negro” and “Malcolm X,” she stared out her window and focused on a bright red light blinking in the distance.

That light stands on the roof of Day Hall, and Farah stared at this symbol of her dream of attending Syracuse University every single day throughout high school. She would be the first person in her family to even think about attending an institution of higher education — or go to school at all — because they came as refugees from Somalia. But as a transfer from Onondaga Community College’s 2+2 program her junior year, she finally made it to the Hill.

Although the 22-year-old senior social work major takes pride in her studies at SU, Farah uses her education to help further her work off campus. As president of the youth group of the Islamic Society of Central New York on Comstock Avenue, she volunteers and sits on the board of the Rahma Health Clinic, is on the board of Alliances of Communities Transforming Syracuse and trains their youth activity council, has an internship at Dr. King Elementary School helping in school social work, runs a Saturday tutoring program for Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment and, on the weekends, hosts a school for children in her neighborhood to teach them about the Quran and the Muslim faith.

Farah doesn’t have much time for herself, but that’s the way she likes it.

“I’ll never have this time again. I’m using the time that I have — my youth — to make my community better to leave a legacy for my children and for the youth that are coming after me so they know what to follow,” she said. “The concept that I’ll never have this time again comes from my religion. … I want all children of African descent to feel that they do have a place in this community.

“They do belong — they just have to find where they belong.”

Farah was born in the Shabelle tribe by the Shabelle River in Somalia, but when she was around a year old, her family was forced out of their farmland. Her mother, Maey, and her father, Osman, spent many months walking to Kenya. The couple raised their family there for six years until they were “posted” and registered with the United Nations to move to Savannah, Georgia, in 2004.

“I’d like to go back one day to my roots, but Syracuse is the place for us,” Farah said. “It was meant to be. I was able to go to school here and become a part of the community in advocacy and activism, and grow as an adult. That was the purpose of Syracuse.”

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Falk College celebrates the 60th anniversary of the School of Social Work

The Falk College School of Social Work commemorated its 60th anniversary at a celebration event Friday, April 21 at Drumlins Country Club in Syracuse. Guests were welcomed with remarks from Keith Alford, director of the School of Social Work, as well as Diane Lyden Murphy, dean of Falk College. Xenia Becher, internship placement coordinator in the School of Social Work, presented a special selection from Michael Carrera’s Lessons for Lifeguards.

In recognition and appreciation of their commitment and dedication to the profession of social work, “Excellence in Service Awards” were presented to three alumni: Madalyn Smith ’78, clinical social worker, convener, round table of faith leaders, InterFaith Works; Pedro Abreu ’02, school social worker, Seymour Dual Language Academy; and Patricia Moore ’85, discipline chief of social work, outpatient clinic coordinator, Hutchings Psychiatric Center.

“As an alumna of the School of Social Work, it is a special privilege to celebrate the School of Social Work and its sixty years of contributions to social work education and practice at both Syracuse University and in the surrounding community and region,” says Diane Lyden Murphy, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D., dean of Falk College. “The school’s leadership and dedication to the embedded mission of social responsibility, social justice and advocacy, in many ways, are what make it the heart of Falk College. Through its 60-year history at Syracuse University—from the early days of civil rights activism, community work in the Great Society years, to involvement with veterans at Fort Drum and the Watertown region, to the extensive and complex issues of our present era—the school has developed true partnerships both in the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York State and beyond, where more than 6,000 alumni continue to bring assistance and change in an expansive number of settings such as social service, behavior health and healthcare agencies, refugee sites, political settings, schools and the academy.”

“Collectively in celebrating 60 years of social work education, we brought together campus colleagues, students, alumni, and community partners on one special evening,” says Keith Alford, Ph.D., A.C.S.W., director of the School of Social Work “The charge for the next 60 years is to continue the quest of our anniversary theme: Embracing the dignity and worth of humankind. This theme embodies a strengths-based perspective, identifying the positive attributes of people. Given such national challenges as racial divisiveness, citizenship struggles for undocumented immigrants and political polarization, the need to uplift one another seems more necessary now than ever before. The value of humanity is priceless.”

Keith Alford, Ph.D., A.C.S.W., director of the School of Social Work, presents a proclamation from Joanne M. Mahoney, county executive, which declares April 21, 2017 “Syracuse University School of Social Work Day” at the school’s 60th Anniversary Celebration event April 21 at Drumlins Country Club in Syracuse.
Keith Alford, Ph.D., A.C.S.W., director of the School of Social Work, presents a proclamation from Joanne M. Mahoney, county executive, which declares April 21, 2017 “Syracuse University School of Social Work Day” at the school’s 60th Anniversary Celebration event April 21 at Drumlins Country Club in Syracuse.

A proclamation from Joanne M. Mahoney, county executive, declared April 21, 2017 “Syracuse University School of Social Work Day.” Mayor Stephanie A. Miner proclaimed the date “Syracuse University School of Social Work Community Recognition Day.”

Karen Kirkhart, professor in the School of Social Work, spoke on the school’s history. Social work at Syracuse University dates back to the 1930s, when students were offered undergraduate courses in social work through the department of sociology and College of Home Economics. It wasn’t until 1952 that the American Association of Schools of Social Work decided Upstate New York was in need of a separate school of social work, specifically at Syracuse University.

With a grant from the Rosemond Gifford Charitable Corporation, the Syracuse University School of Social Work was founded, the 61st school in the country to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education in 1957, and the first such school in New York State outside of Buffalo and New York City. About a decade later, the school began to attract international students from nations such as India, Egypt, Korea, Canada, and the Philippines.

The school exclusively offered a master’s degree program until 1971 when it admitted its first undergraduate class. In 1975, it became one of the first Council of Social Work Education accredited social work bachelor’s degree programs in the country, and the very first to be accredited in Upstate New York.

In 1972, the School of Social Work established one of the nation’s first programs focused on aging research: The All-University Gerontology Center, which allowed students across the University to pursue a concentration in aging. Today, it exists as the Syracuse University Aging Studies Institute, established in 2011 and co-directed by the School of Social Work and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Today, the ASI is includes more than 40 faculty affiliates.

Over its history, the school has established a number of signature learning experiences that students enjoy today, such as Legislative Policy Day, an annual event that started in the late 1990s that exposes students to pressing policy issues and the importance of advocacy, now sponsored by alumnus James Stone ’64 MSW, who attended the anniversary celebration. In addition, the annual Alan B. Mirken immersion trip to New York City, which since 2002 has exposed students to historical social work sites and provided one-on-one engagement with human services agencies. The school continues to enrich its well-established study abroad program in Strasbourg, France, as well.

The school was first housed at 400 Comstock Avenue, and moved to South Crouse Avenue, Brockway Hall, and Sims Hall before finding its current home in White Hall, part of the Falk College Complex. In 2001, the School of Social Work became part of the College of Human Services and Health Professions, which in in 2007 was renamed the College of Human Ecology, and in 2011 was renamed the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.

Today, the School of Social Work exists as a perfect example of Falk College’s comprehensive educational approach: theory-to-practice learning, the combination of a rigorous classroom curriculum and intensive internship requirements. To date, the school has 180 internships in 53 agencies across 8 counties. Many of the school’s current field placement sites represent long-lasting relationships with community organizations, where social work students have been placed for internships and field placements since the 1950s and 60s.

The school boasts 6,586 total alumni. It expects to add roughly 130 from the Class of 2017.

Social work students visit agencies in New York City during Mirken immersion trip

Students outside the Tenement Museum during the 2017 Mirken immersion trip.
Students outside the Tenement Museum during the 2017 Mirken immersion trip.

Each spring, faculty, students and staff from the School of Social Work embark on a three-day journey to the New York City area for the Alan B. Mirken New York City Social Work Immersion Trip, sponsored by the Alan B. and Barbara Mirken Foundation, designed to help students to learn how U.S. social welfare developed. This year during the spring 2017 trip, 14 undergraduate social work students made visits to Mount Sinai Hospital, the Tenement Museum, and spent a half-day at the Goddard Riverside Community Center, where they ate lunch with the elderly.

“The Alan B. Mirken immersion trip to New York City provides our undergraduate students the opportunity to interface with human service agencies on a one-on-one basis,” says Keith Alford, Ph.D., A.C.S.W., director of the school of social work. “Each visit to various agencies and settings in New York City provides a rich dialogue between the students and the agency personnel.”

32 Students inducted into Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society

Adriana Sotolongo '18, president of Phi Alpha, Zeta Gamma Chapter, presents a medal to inductee Danielle Cajigas.
Adriana Sotolongo ’18, president of Phi Alpha, Zeta Gamma Chapter, presents a medal to inductee Danielle Cajigas.

On Friday, April 21, the Syracuse University Falk College School of Social Work held its 2017 Phi Alpha Honor Society, Zeta Gamma Chapter, Induction Ceremony in Grant Auditorium, followed by a reception in Wildhack Lounge. This year’s inductees included 14 MSW students and 18 BSSW students.

Social work graduate student Genevieve Marshall G’17 was the keynote speaker. Medallions were awarded by social work senior Juliana Leach ’17, social work graduate student Anthony Traver G’17 and Bette Brown Thoreck, director of the baccalaureate social work program and Phi Alpha faculty advisor.

The concept of a National Social Work Honor Society came from a group of undergraduates at Michigan State University. In November, 1960, a national honor society committee was formed and in 1961 the society came into being. The Syracuse University Zeta Gamma Chapter was founded in 1996 as part of the School of Social Work’s 40th Anniversary Celebration.

The charge and purposes of the Phi Alpha Honor Society are:

  • To recognize and encourage scholastic achievement among the students who are majoring in social work.
  • To improve and further the goals and objectives of social work by encouraging objectivity and awareness of current developments and practices in the various fields of social work.
  • To improve and further the goals and objectives of social work by stimulating research in preparation for a career in social work.

2017 Phi Alpha Honor Society, Zeta Gamma Chapter Inductees

Graduates (MSW):

Stephen Michael Ayers
Lauren Marie Beville
Danielle Samantha Cajigas
Ashley Lynn Colasanti
Jennifer Anne Crider
Nicole Marie Donati
Kristy Kelly
Melanie Licatese
Samantha Lynn McCoy
Naomi Chang Patnaude
Eric Grace Shambo
Britton Adolfo Tarris
Karolyne Elizabeth Tomlinson
Jelilat Williams

Undergraduates (BSSW):

Karlea A. Abair
Amy Kathryn Austin
Lorez E. Barber
Sarah Hannah Berkowitz
Angela Mary Calvey
Emily Rose Carlson
Anne Mei Daly
Brielle T. Dejoe
Angela G. Gallina
Maia Garcia
Carly Rose Jones
Jessica Elizabeth Mohn
Sarah Brooke Parker
Cynthia A. Salas
Elizabeth H. Scharoun
Nathan D. Sinn
Allison Smidt
Alyssa L. Swierk

Social work alumna realizes passion for mentorship at the Syracuse City Schools

Falk College exterior at nightSocial Work alumna Melissa Mendez ’16, G’17 was recently highlighted by the Syracuse City School District, where she is currently employed as a social worker at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central. Mendez worked as a hairstylist before realizing her vision to become a social worker for the SCDS. Today, she gives high school students the mentorship and encouragement she wished she had received when she was a SCSD student. “I knew I wanted to make an impact,” Mendez tells the SCSD. “This [the Syracuse city schools] is where I come from. Now, I feel like I get to make a difference.”

At the SCSD, Mendez meets with students to help them flesh out and plan for their long-term goals. Mendez tells SCSD that honesty and planning are her two focus areas when advising students, helping them envision the pathway to achieving their goals. “Everyone’s path can be different. They don’t have to be in a box to be successful… they can be who they are,” Mendez says in the SDCD highlight. In addition to advising, she also organizes group activities where students meet together and share their personal experiences, build relationships and grow.

“I may be older, but I’m still relatable to them,” Mendez tells the SCSD. “I look like some of them. I grew up where they did and in similar circumstances. Sometimes, students will say, ‘You don’t understand me.’ I rattle off ten stories about how I really do. I want them to know that there’s nothing wrong from coming from this – from Syracuse and the city schools. They’re all powerful and they can get through whatever they’re going through!”

Read Mendez’s SCSD highlight on the district’s website.

Catherine Falk to speak at Falk College April 17

FlierCatherine Falk, MA, pioneer of the wards’ right of association bill named after her late father, Maxwell School alumnus, Peter Falk ’53 (M.P.A.), will speak at Syracuse University’s Falk College on Monday, April 17. An advocate for elder abuse prevention, guardianship reform and disability rights drafting and lobbying legislation for rights of association for those experiencing isolation in a guardianship/conservatorship, Catherine Falk continues to lobby for family rights legislation nationally. The Peter Falk Bill was drafted in 2011 in California, which Catherine took to her father’s home state of New York where it was sponsored and passed with support of Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli.

Known for his starring role in the popular television show, Columbo, Peter Falk was at the center of a court battle in 2009 when his daughter, Catherine, filed for conservatorship after her stepmother did not allow contact or visitation with the ailing 81-year-old actor. Catherine Falk’s advocacy since that time has created Peter Falk’s Law in many states, including New York, which provides protection for adults in guardianship/conservatorship who are wrongfully isolated from family and friends and denied visitation, information, and contact.

Her presentation will include perspectives from Catherine Falk Organization advocates, Sara Harvey and Janie Price. To learn more about their work, visit For more event information, email

Broadway, Ryans Receive Social Justice Awards at March 6 Program

Broadway and Ryans
Broadway and Ryans at the March 6 Social Justice Award program.

In commemoration of National Professional Social Work Month during March, the School of Social Work in Falk College presented its annual Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Award program on Monday, March 6 at 6:45 p.m. in Heroy Auditorium. The event included a keynote address by Beth Broadway entitled, “Building Bridges of Understanding in a Divided Time—Challenges Facing Immigrants and Refugees, and How Our Community Can Help.”

Broadway is the president and CEO of InterFaith Works of CNY who, along with Clifford Ryans, founder, O.G.’s Against Gun Violence, were both honored that evening with 2017 Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Awards for their respective demonstrated commitments to service and social justice in the Syracuse community. Presented for more than 30 years, the Rubenstein Social Justice Award is given in honor of the late professor Dan Rubenstein, a former faculty member in the School of Social Work and his late wife, Mary Lou, a former school social worker.

Broadway leads programs at InterFaith Works that use service, education, and dialogue to build bridges in a divided world and to provide comfort to frail elderly people, job opportunities to healthy seniors, refugee resettlement, chaplains in the jails, hospitals, and nursing homes, and dialogues between people of different backgrounds. She previously led the Community Wide Dialogue to End Racism and is the designer and facilitator of The Leadership Classroom that trains and equips individuals to improve city neighborhoods.

Clifford Ryans founded O.G.’s Against Gun Violence to help reduce community violence. He works tirelessly to educate young children about the perils of the violence, guns and gangs through presentations at schools, local events, and rallies. With a deep commitment and courage driven by his personal experience of losing a son to gun violence, Ryans shared his experiences as a featured panelist at the School of Social Work’s James L. Stone Annual Legislative Policy Symposium that focused on gun violence as it relates to trauma, community relations and racial justice.