The School of Social Work is pleased to recognize the outstanding work of its undergraduate and graduate students for excellence. The undergraduate and graduate award process began early this semester, well before the disruption of Covid-19. Awardees were nominated by faculty and staff and selected by a faculty/staff committee, which reviewed transcript evidence, field evaluations, and the nomination letters themselves.
Members of the Class of 2020 honored with BSSW and MSW awards are listed below.
Seven distinguished members of the BSSW Class of 2020 were honored with Convocation Awards at a ceremony on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Kenneth J. Marfilius Student Veteran Award: Nathan P. O’Donnell
The Kenneth J. Marfilius Student Veteran Award is given to an undergraduate or graduate student in good academic standing, who is a military veteran. The award is based on GPA, community and University contributions. This year’s honoree is a former mental health technician in the U.S. Air Force. He brings over 17 years of proven teamwork ability, working in multiple high-stress situations to build highly motivated teams focused on achieving goals. Nathan has trained, supervised and provided career guidance to nearly two dozen service members. He is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor. After completing his military duty, Nathan has continued his life of service, this time in the field of social work. In recognition of his academic achievement and service to the community, we are pleased to recognize Nathan P. O’Donnell.
Scholastic Excellence Award: Molly Murphy
The Scholastic Excellence Award recognizes the graduating senior with the highest cumulative GPA. This award recognizes the dedication, hard work, attention to detail, and resilience that it takes to excel scholastically in the BSSW program. This year’s awardee is a social work major with minors in Addictions Studies and Spanish. Beyond her course work, Molly is a Falk College peer advisor and a University Ambassador, and she was a teaching assistant for HSH101 in fall 2017. This year, she was Teen Leadership Coordinator and Operations Co-Coordinator for Syracuse University’s Camp Kesem, a free, week-long summer camp for children whose parents have been affected by cancer. Molly approaches her coursework with passion and will graduate with the highest cumulative GPA in her class. In recognition of her academic achievement, we are pleased to recognize Molly Murphy as this year’s recipient of the Scholastic Excellence Award!
Bachelor of Science in Social Work Award: Briyana Henry
This award goes to a graduating senior in good academic standing who is involved in social work activities, community service, and contributions to Syracuse University. Our 2020 award recipient is strong in all these categories. Briyana is a McNair Scholar and member of the Renée Crown Honors Program, majoring in Psychology as well as Social Work. She has a record of both research and service to community and University. This past fall, Briyana also served as a teaching assistant in HSH101. Her nominator noted that her class contributions were consistently insightful and on point. She mastered difficult course materials with humility, and she is “an exceptional student.” For her senior thesis, Briyana undertook an original research project on the Impact of a Community Afterschool Program on Urban Adolescents. She demonstrated persistence in working through multiple iterations of IRB requests, and she displayed flexibility and creativity in meeting the challenges of data collection. With this year’s Bachelor of Science in Social Work Award, we recognize the excellence of Briyana Henry.
Rhonda B. Cohen Prize in Gerontology Award: Alicia Smith
The Rhonda B. Cohen Prize in Gerontology is named in honor of Rhonda Cohen, who graduated from our MSW program in 1983 and passed away at a young age. She was an advocate for the needs of the elderly. This award recognizes a BSSW graduate specializing in gerontology. The award criteria include cumulative GPA, a strong record of community service, and an interest in working with older adults. This year’s awarded is a member of both the Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Alpha National Honor Societies. Having completed her internship at the Rescue Mission, focusing on street outreach in our community, Alicia quickly identified the aging homeless population as the highest risk, especially during the winter months in Syracuse, NY. Her attention to their unique health issues, suppressed mobility and immunity, as well as vulnerability toward agism prompted her advocacy. For her work exemplary work in advancing human rights, through stabilizing secure housing for the elderly, we honor Alicia Smith with the 2020 Rhonda B. Cohen Prize in Gerontology.
Catherine Mary Esposito Achievement Award: Alexandra Tulowiecki
The Catherine Mary Esposito Achievement Award is given to an outstanding undergraduate student who has demonstrated a commitment to clients with developmental disabilities or traumatic brain injury. Catherine Mary Esposito was an alumna of our MSW program who worked for NYS Developmental Services with special needs clients; she loved that population. Catherine died of breast cancer at 38 years old, and family members started this award in her memory. Not only must the awardee be in good academic standing, but more importantly, they must have demonstrated experience in the field with persons with disabilities. This year’s honoree is a triple major in social work, psychology, and forensic science. Lexi is employed as a direct support professional at Exceptional Family Services, where she works with persons with developmental disabilities to help develop communication, social and daily living skills. She is also a mentor at Advocates Incorporated, where she supports persons with autism, Down Syndrome, epilepsy, spina bifida, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The 2020 recipient of the Catherine Mary Esposito Achievement Award is Alexandra (Lexi) Tulowiecki.
Elizabeth Brown Thoreck Student Achievement Award: Stacy Sturdevant
Elizabeth Brown (Bette) Thoreck, former BSSW Director, established this award to recognize a non-traditional aged undergraduate student who is in good academic standing in both the academic arena and the field placement setting. As once a non-traditional student herself, Bette appreciates the perseverance and resilience required to combine scholastic achievement with other life responsibilities. This year’s awardee has balanced home and family with part-time studies and full-time employment. Since 2013, Stacy has worked for The Salvation Army Syracuse Area Services as a NY State of Health Program Manager and Navigator. Under her leadership, The NY State of Health Navigator Program has grown from 1 staff member to 4. In addition to direct service, Stacy partners with other community agencies, and she designed and oversees program monitoring, collecting statistical data for monthly Progress Reports to NYSOH. Stacy trains other Navigators and Act as the main point of contact for NY State of Health and Child Health Plus/Medicaid in the community. Honoring her excellence in our BSSW program in combination with her other areas of responsibility, we recognize Stacy Sturdevant with the 2020 Elizabeth Brown Thoreck Student Achievement Award.
Keith Anthony Alford Diversity and Inclusion Award: Marceli Rocha-Rocha
This award was established by our former School of Social Work Director and current Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) of Syracuse University, Dr. Keith Anthony Alford. The award is given to an undergraduate, in good academic standing, who has demonstrated in their academic program and field placement setting a commitment to cultural competence and diversity as delineated in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics. This year’s awardee is majoring in Psychology as well as Social Work, with a minor in Spanish. Marceli’s commitment to diversity is visible both within and outside of the classroom. She is Vice-President of the Women’s Empowerment Project here at SU and serves as both Academic Chair and Community Service Chair of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority. She is Treasurer of Xicanx Empowering Xicanx (XEX) and an active member of Students Advocating Sexual Safety and Empowerment (SESSE). We are delighted to honor Marceli Rocha-Rocha with the 2020 Keith Anthony Alford Diversity and Inclusion Award.
Additional honors related to the Class of 2020 BSSW students include:
Hortence Cochrane Award: Stacy Sturdevant
Professor Emerita Hortence Cochrane established this award for a UC junior or senior matriculated in the School of Social Work and is awarded to a student who shows academic excellence.
Falk Scholar: Alexandra (Lexi) Tulowiecki
Falk College Scholars represent undergraduate students in Falk College who display academic excellence, exceptional campus and community engagement, and personal integrity
Falk Marshal: Tess Harper
Senior Class Marshals have excelled during their time on campus and exemplify the spirit of the senior class. The selection committee assesses the nominees on scholarship, academic honors, student organization involvement, and campus/community service. Class Marshals lead the student procession at Commencement and assist with Commencement speaker selection. They also represent their class at other University events.
Our Time Has Come Scholars: Briyana Henry and Marceli Rocha-Rocha
This scholarship offers eligible students leadership skills and mentorship by Syracuse University alumni and friends, in addition to a monetary scholarship. The scholars are given an opportunity to enhance their Syracuse University education with encouragement, motivation, and support. Students chosen for this award show a strong interest in volunteering, leadership training, and joining a supportive community of scholars.
Remembrance Scholar: Molly Murphy
Remembrance Scholarships were founded as a tribute to-and means of remembering-the 35 students who were killed in the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Scholars are chosen in their junior year through a rigorous, competitive process and are selected on the basis of scholarship, leadership, and service to the community.
Class of 2020 members of the Phi Alpha Honor Society:
Alicia Marie Smith
MSW students honored in the Class of 2020 include the following:
Rhonda B. Cohen Prize in Gerontology Award: Lisa Christine Dussing
This award is given to a graduate Social Work student specializing in gerontology. Award is based on GPA, community service, and gerontology interest.
Catherine Mary Esposito Achievement Award: Jennifer Sue Robb
This award is given to an outstanding graduate student who has demonstrated a commitment to clients with developmental disabilities.
Keith Anthony Alford Diversity and Inclusion Award: Arlaina Harris
The award is given to a graduate, in good academic standing, who has demonstrated in his or her academic program and field placement setting a commitment to cultural competence and diversity as delineated in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics.
Carrie Jefferson Smith Social Justice Award: Danielle S. Smith
This award is given to a graduate student who has demonstrated a commitment to social justice, particularly in the area of improving the lives of victims impacted by the continuum of domestic violence.
Virginia Insley Award: Amanda Louise Deavers
This award is given to an outstanding MSW student who is interested in Maternal and Child Health. Preference is given to someone who has completed their field placement in maternal and child health care.
Class of 2020 members of the Phi Alpha Honor Society:
Kaitlyn Dawn Budge
Caroline Laws Hyneman
Gabrielle Denise Nicolini
Alyssa M. Prawl
Gillian Rowan Riggall
Julia Elise Sanders
Danielle S. Smith
Kaeley Anne Spicer