Fordham Notes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Social Work Journal Takes Cross-Disciplinary Approach


Social workers often find themselves on front lines of where the hard numbers of economics meet people's complex social and emotional needs. Yet, many students venturing into the field of social services often eschew the literature of other disciplines, like economics, that directly affect their clients. Now, a new journal supported by the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS), titled 21st Century Social Justice, seeks to merge social work research with that of neuroscience, economics, and law.

“During my research into social work, I have found it impossible not to wander into the literature of other fields,” said Zachary Alti, GSS ’14, the founder and editor of the inaugural issue.

“But neuroscience can seem intimidatingly scientific, and the cold realism of economics can be perceived as antagonistic to social justice.”

Alti approached Tina Maschi, Ph.D., an associate professor at GSS, with his concerns that there was a knowledge gap in social work research that needed to be filled. With the support of Fordham University Libraries, Maschi helped facilitate the message and the mechanics, while Alti recruited fellow students.

He issued a call for papers and wrote the opening statement. An editorial board of fellow students was formed so that papers could be peer reviewed. Maschi said that developing a student-led journal was already a goal at the school, but it was Alti’s initiative that brought together a “convergence of ideas.”

“This is a beyond the classroom learning experience,” she said. “Students need to realize their  own knowledge and their power, and know  that they have something to offer the other sciences. They’re the scholars. They have a valid, expert role in sharing their views with these other fields.”

Getting the various disciplines to join a scholarly endeavor led by social workers can to be a challenge, she said. But she added that social workers play a vital role in translating the science and economics to communities that are directly affected.

“Social work is a psycho-social-spiritual medicine,” she said. “It’s important to recognize that social work plays a primary role in preventing illness and promoting health and well being. The journal is just another step towards social workers being accepted as full and equal partners in knowledge generation.”

The inaugural issue highlights several topics, including little known social problems related to families caring for a fragile infant, breastfeeding women in the workplace, conditional cash transfers among women in Columbia, and the effect of climate change on vulnerable populations.

“Psychologists are often perceived as the industry standard for therapy,” said Alti. “I wanted to strengthen the view of social work as different from psychology, in that it has a distinct framework. We’re a much more externally oriented field, always looking at the environmental factors at play. We want the journal strengthening that distinction with knowledge from other fields.”

With Alti recently graduated and in private practice, student Merritt Juliano will take up the role of editor. Juliano is accepting papers for the next issue at mjuliano3@fordham.edu. All disciplines are welcome to submit.
-Tom Stoelker

Monday, August 18, 2014

IPED Students Visit South Africa

With the cable car closed for repairs, Fordham IPED students
 Jenna, Lorena, Juls, Iurii, Danielle, Deana, and Evan
had to scale by foot the 3,558 foot Table Mountain.
Contributed Photo   
If South Africa is the next big thing for business, Fordham students will know for sure.

As part of the Graduate Program in International Political Economy and Development’s (IPED) emerging markets program, 14 Fordham graduate and undergraduate students are spending three weeks in South Africa studying alongside 20 students from there. 

Their focus has been on the country’s macroeconomic performance, exchange rate stability and the prospects for portfolio investments, as well as in some of the larger emerging markets around the globe.

The trip is the seventh one the IPED program has sponsored, and in addition to graduate students, it has featured undergraduates from both Fordham College Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center.

In addition to an intensive set of classes, briefings from business, government, and labor leaders, the students also had the opportunity to visit Cape Town, hike up Table Mountain and take a ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. 

Once the course is concluded, students will also have the opportunity to attend a three-day safari in Kruger National Park.


—Patrick Verel

Alumni Spotlight: From Toledo to the Great White Way

Kevin Smith Kirkwood, FCRH ’99, one of the Angels in the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots, credits his high school musical director for putting him on the path to New York City and a group of generous Fordham alumni for helping him become the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Growing up in the projects of Toledo, Ohio, Kirkwood started singing as a hobby, first at home, then in the gospel choir at his community church. He continued singing at St. John’s Jesuit High School, where as a student he coordinated the liturgical group under the guidance of Ron Torina, S.J., who headed ministry services and directed all of the school’s musicals.

Kevin Smith Kirkwood, FCRH '99

In Kirkwood’s freshman year, Father Torina cast Kirkwood in Hello Dolly. “I had never seen a Broadway musical, didn’t know what it was,” he says, but “I was bitten by the bug there.”

He performed in musicals and plays throughout his four years at St. John’s. And he found a mentor in Father Torina. “He was the first person who told me I was really talented and should make a go of it.”

During the fall of Kirkwood’s senior year, Father Torina accompanied a group of St. John’s students, including Kirkwood, on a trip to visit Fordham as part of a special program for admitted students. They toured the Rose Hill campus, stayed overnight in the residence halls, and met with Fordham students, faculty, and resident assistants.

“We were sold. I thought it was the college campus of the movies. I knew that I was home when I saw the city, the energy, all the different kinds of people coming together. I was excited by it and invigorated by it,” he says. “I never looked back.”

With a financial aid package of scholarship, loans, and grants, Kirkwood enrolled in Fordham College at Rose Hill and found his niche on campus when he became a member of the Mimes and Mummers, and helped revive the Fordham Glee Club, which had been inactive for decades. He also made his way to a Broadway show, seeing Rent with its original cast. “[My friends and I] were obsessed with that show,” Kirkwood says. “It was so new and fresh.”

While performing in shows for Mimes and Mummers and the Glee Club, Kirkwood also did work-study with the Fordham Phonathon and worked in the Residential Housing Office. Kirkwood relied on these on-campus jobs and his financial aid to help him pay for college, but in the summer before his junior year, he received his tuition bill indicating that his financial aid package fell short of covering costs for the year. Kirkwood was going to drop out of Fordham until he spoke with Stan Pruszynski, FCRH ’73, president of the Fordham Glee Club Alumni Association. “Stan said ‘we have money saved up for a future scholarship and we decided that you’ll be the first recipient.’”

“I’m so lucky and so grateful,” says Kirkwood, of receiving the Fordham University Glee Club Alumni Memorial Endowed Scholarship in Honor of Father Theodore T. Farley, S.J. “It’s an example of an act of kindness that can make a huge difference.” And with the scholarship, he could stay at Fordham. “I’m the first person on either side of my family to go to college. My family is so proud of me and I share that accomplishment with them.”

Kevin Smith Kirkwood as one of the
the Kinky Boots Angels
He won a part in the 2001 national tour of Godspell, and later, was in the cast of a European tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. He earned a New York Innovative Theatre Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in It’s Karate, Kid! The Musical, and the New York Times called Kirkwood “fabulous” in his role of Bonquisha in the off-Broadway show How to Save the World and Find True Love in 90 Minutes. He made his Broadway debut in 2006, as an understudy in the Tony Award-winning The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. “You work so hard and then you get that call and it’s the best feeling in the world,” he says.

In 2013, Kinky Boots opened on Broadway with Kirkwood starring as one of the Angels, drag performers in the Blue Angel Nightclub. “It has a feel-good message,” Kirkwood says of the show, which is based on a true story of a struggling shoe factory owner who forms an unlikely relationship with a drag queen to save his business. The show, winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, is “kind of a dream job,” he says.

When Kirkwood is not on stage, he volunteers with Broadway Cares, which helps raise funds for AIDS-related causes across the United States. “I have a strong sense of community—my Broadway community, my church community,” he says. “Fordham is all about community.”

He returned to the Rose Hill campus in May for his 15th alumni reunion—taking a night off from Kinky Boots to reconnect with his friends at the Jubilee Gala.

“I think how lucky we were to spend that time there. I’m really proud to be a Fordham alum. The pride of having finished [my degree] at a school with that caliber and reputation, it was a tremendous source of pride,” says Kirkwood, “and still is.”

—Rachel Buttner

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Former CBS Executive and Fordham Dean Recalls Watergate, Nixon's Resignation



When President Richard Nixon announced his resignation 40 years ago on Aug. 8, 1974, it brought shock and amazement but also, for some, “a sense of relief,” said Communications Professor Emeritus William J. Small, a luminary of the news business who oversaw Watergate coverage for CBS News and later served on the Fordham faculty. 

“This is now behind us” was the view of some commentators, said Small, who was a senior vice president at CBS when Nixon resigned. He didn’t recall being surprised—“I mean, the man faced impeachment”—but acknowledged that there was uncertainty about what Nixon would do in the face of the crippling scandal.

“People were amazed” at the president’s resignation, he said. “It was considered an option, but I don’t know anyone who knew when it would happen, or even for sure that it would. His people were still bravely talking about surviving the impeachment attempt—whatever people were left at that point.” 

Small was interviewed on the occasion of being named for a Lifetime Achievement Award that he will receive at the 35th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards at Lincoln Center on Sept. 30. He was Fordham’s Distinguished Felix E. Larkin Professor and director of the Center for Communications at the Graduate School of Business Administration (GBA) from 1986 to 1997, and served as dean of GBA dean from 1992 to 1994. He went on to serve as chairman for news and documentary Emmys for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Watergate was one of the dominant stories during his stint as Washington bureau chief for CBS News from 1962 to 1974. “We were always playing catch-up” to the Washington Post, but weren’t too far behind, he said. 

Ben Bradlee, the Post’s executive editor at the time, once told Small of the importance of CBS’s Watergate coverage. “He said other papers were afraid to touch that story at the beginning,” Small said. “Those papers wouldn’t pick it up, he said, until CBS started, and then it became a national story and (the Post) became the heart of it.” 

“[Bradlee] was very gracious about the role we played,” Small said. “We did a lot of original reporting … and I was very proud of the way (our reporters) followed it.” 

Small received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Fordham in 2003, and continues to take courses in the University’s College at 60. 


---- Chris Gosier

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fordham Infectious Disease Specialist Talks to Media about Ebola

As two Ebola-infected humanitarian healthcare workers are transported to Emory University in Atlanta for treatment, concern about a potential outbreak is heating up. Fordham’s Alexander van Tulleken has appeared on various media outlets to discuss whether such fears are warranted.

Alexander van Tulleken, M.D.
File Photo by Patrick Verel

An infectious disease specialist and a senior fellow with Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs, van Tulleken has appeared on Al Jazeera America, MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry Show,” and locally, Fox-5 New York, with the same message:

“It’s very hard to catch this virus,” he says of Ebola, of which there is no cure, and causes hemorrhagic fever that kills at least 60 percent of the people it infects in Africa. Ebola spreads through close contact with bodily fluids and blood, meaning it is not spread as easily as airborne influenza or the common cold.

In this interview with New York’s Fox 5, he discussed the Ebola vaccine currently in trials, and also explained that the virus has been in the country for some time with the Center for Disease Control’s research. Watch here:


In this segment with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, van Tulleken says that rather than worrying about a vaccine, “what we need to be doing is containing this epidemic in West Africa.” He also says prevention is always underfunded. “What we’re seeing is a failure of the international system to respond to this virus, and this is a virus we should care about for humanitarian reasons. These countries are really neglected, and that’s why it’s spreading.”

Image via NBC News
Watch both MSNBC segments below, and visit our YouTube page for more media appearances by van Tulleken and other Fordham faculty.




-Gina Vergel

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Student Play to be Staged at Fringe Festival

AJ Golio and Shannon Morrall in the February
performance at Fordham
Contributed photo
Purgatory, the land of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners atoning before going to heaven, is the setting for a new play written and performed by Fordham students.

My Personal Hell, a comedic murder mystery written and directed by Fordham College at Rose Hill senior Jonathan O'Neill, will be staged in August at FringeNYC, the largest multi-arts festival in North America.

The play, which was first produced by Fordham Experimental Theatre at Collins Auditorium, centers around Tucker Tomkins, a twenty-something photographer (played by Rose Hill junior AJ Golio) who is shot and killed. When he arrives in Purgatory, he is told that in order to get into heaven he must solve his own murder.

From the afterlife he witnesses how his friends, loved ones, and neighbors carry on in his absence, as he and two detectives try to deduce his killer. Suspicious characters include quarreling politicians, Tucker's hot-headed fiancée, his agoraphobic best friend, and pretentious journalist, among others.

O’Neill said he’s been working on the play for the last two years.

The cast of My Personal Hell at Fordham in February
Contributed photo
“It was an effort to combine traditional, large-ensemble mysteries such as Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, and Murder on the Orient Express with a touch of post-war French drama along the lines of No Exit,” he said.

“The play has gone through another draft since our performance at Fordham in February; the characters are the same but the scenes have almost all been rewritten.”

The cast and crew of My Personal Hell features Timothy Rozmus, GSB '13, as the assistant director and includes:

From Fordham College at Rose Hill: AJ Golio, Michael Brown, James Flanagan, Shannon Morrall, Alyssa Marino, Michael Guariglia, Devin Chowske, Joseph Gallagher, Elle Crane, Sarah Hill, Giancarlo Milea, Christopher Pedro, James Murtagh, and MaryClare Demenna.
From the Gabelli School of Business: Pat McCarthy, Vincent Pellizzi, and Collin Wright.

The production takes place at Loretto Auditorium, 18 Bleeker St. in Manhattan.
Sunday, Aug. 10 at 7:45 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 17 at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 21 at 2 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 23 at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 24 at 4:45 p.m.

Tickets are available at http://www.fringenyc.org/basic_page.php?ltr=M#MyPers

—Patrick Verel

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fordham Student at Epicenter of Ebola Crisis

The July 29 death of Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, Sheikh Umar Khan, from the disease has intensified fears about the epidemic that is overwhelming West Africa.

“On a daily basis, Ebola regularly comes up,” said Kathleen “Ellie” Frazier, a student in Fordham’s International Political Economy and Development (IPED) program who is working in Sierra Leone. “I overhear people discussing it on the street and there are awareness posters everywhere.”

Researchers are working to develop a treatment for Ebola, but right now there is no cure or vaccine.
Infected patients receive only supportive care, such as saline and fever-reducing medication.
Photo courtesy of BBC News

Currently, Sierra Leone is the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, which causes high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes internal bleeding. The highly contagious virus, for which there is no cure or vaccine, remains infectious even after a person has died.

More than 1,200 cases and 670 deaths have been reported across West Africa. So far, 454 Ebola cases have been reported in Sierra Leone.

Frazier is stationed in a rural area of Sierra Leone as an intern at Timap for Justice, the country’s largest paralegal network. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda, she has worked extensively only social justice issues, especially in post-conflict regions. In Sierra Leone, she is working with Timap to develop organizational assessment tools and training materials, and is observing paralegal activities in its various offices.

She was there just a week when Ebola cases began to emerge.

“In the first week I arrived, Ebola was confirmed in the eastern part of the country, marking its departure from the original area along the eastern border with Liberia and Guinea,” she said. Initially, she hesitated going to Timap’s rural offices. She even thought about leaving the country.

“But, with the exception of one mining company in the east, no one was evacuating their staff. The rural offices I was supposed to work in were not in the most heavily affected districts, so I decided to go.”

Frazier has not known anyone who has contracted the virus, although several Timap staff members fled a city with a major Ebola isolation unit after a prominent teacher there died. She said two of Timap’s offices in the east have been forced to temporarily suspend activities.

Image courtesy of BBC News
Frazier said that misinformation about the virus is rampant. Some Sierra Leoneans doubt it even exists, partly because Ebola symptoms are similar to the common diseases of malaria and Lassa fever. And there are some who insist the disease is a conspiracy, citing that the original contamination area is a stronghold of the opposition political party.

Conflicting messages early on from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation caused further confusion, Frazier said. In more remote rural areas, villagers have even driven out WHO and Doctors Without Borders workers.

Fear also breeds misconceptions, she said. Because of the virus’ high contagion rate, those who test positive for Ebola are immediately transferred to an isolation unit, where loved ones cannot visit. If they die, their bodies are bagged and buried in a designated area, denying family members the opportunity to perform customary funeral rites. As a result, many people see going to the isolation word as a “death sentence” and resist taking sick family members to health centers or hospitals.

“Some rumors go so far as to say that the wards are fronts for organ harvesting, or that they inject you with the virus once you are admitted,” Frazier said.

Frazier said that those affected by Ebola are facing discrimination. Health professionals are ostracized by friends and family because of their work with victims. Children from affected families have been driven away from school. People refuse to buy goods from affected families.

“Beyond individuals and families, it is likely that the districts most heavily affected will carry a stigma long after this outbreak subsides—whenever that may be.”

— Joanna Klimaski Mercuri

Faculty Reads: East and West Converge on Moral Grounds

Western moral philosophy is built on the works of thinkers such as ancient Greece’s Aristotle and modern Germany’s Immanuel Kant. But in recent decades, many scholars have turned eastward, looking also to Buddhist thought to enlighten important moral and ethical issues.

The scholarship that has followed is copious, but disjointed, said Fordham Professor of philosophy Christopher Gowans. His solution is Buddhist Moral Philosophy: An Introduction (Routledge, 2014).

“There has been a lot of work lately interpreting Buddhist thought in terms of Western moral philosophy, and there is no book that brings this together in a single volume,” said Gowans, who specializes in contemporary moral philosophy and Buddhist philosophy.

“Since there is little that can be considered moral philosophy in the [Buddhist] tradition, this is really a new field. I’m trying to introduce the reader to it.”

He explained that the Buddhist tradition does not approach the subject of moral philosophy like the West does. Although Buddhist thought centers on ethics (namely, how we should live our lives), its philosophical reflections are primarily metaphysical and epistemological—not explicit, how-to guides to morality.

Nevertheless, contemporary scholars find value in examining Buddhist works through a Western lens, drawing on the likes of Aristotle and Kant. But because this scholarship is still evolving, the upshots of uniting Buddhist and Western moral traditions remain unclear.

“An optimistic response might envision these two enterprises as partly overlapping circles… Despite significant differences, there is enough common ground to generate a reasonable expectation that something valuable will come from examining Buddhist thought through the perspectives of Western moral philosophy,” Gowans writes in the book’s introduction.

“A more pessimistic response may [say] any such examination is, in the end, basically a futile effort to fit square pegs into round holes… Readers are invited to determine which of these responses is most appropriate.”

Broken into three sections, the book:
  • presents the teaching of the Buddha and developments in Buddhist traditions (mainly the early Mahayana schools);
  • examines the main areas of Buddhist moral philosophy (such as well-being, the problem of free will, normative ethics, issues about moral objectivity, and moral psychology) and the concerns that many Western thinkers have concerning karma, rebirth, nirvana, and related topics; and
  • introduces readers to a contemporary movement known as socially engaged Buddhism, which delves into ethical issues such as human rights, war and peace, and environmental ethics.
Buddhist Moral Philosophy comes out today.

— Joanna Klimaski Mercuri

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dancing Through the Dark Days of Imprisonment

Ray Brito is a member of Figures-in-Flight Released,
a dance group composed of formerly incarcerated men.
Photo by Michael Dames
With more than 2.4 million people currently behind bars, America is the world’s No. 1 incarcerator.

And of those who will be released, 50 percent will return to prison within their first three years of freedom.

“That’s a terrible thing to project around the world,” said Katherine Vockins, who presented the statistics at the National Organization of Forensic Social Work conference at Fordham on July 26.

Vockins is the founder and executive director of Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA). A businesswoman who also enjoyed community theater, Vockins devised the group while volunteering with her husband at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. A group of inmates asked for her help with a play they’d written, which Vockins helped turn into a production. Within the year, RTA was born.

In the 18 years since, RTA has grown to serve 150 incarcerated men and women in five medium and maximum security prisons throughout New York state. It offers a variety of workshops, including theater, dance, creative writing, film, visual art, dramatic literature, and voice.

“We are using art to teach critical life skills and social skills, which social service agencies have said is the missing link when people come home after being in prison for a long time,” Vockins said.

RTA helps give the incarcerated population a much-needed outlet, said Vockins. “It’s a chance to have emotions, to show emotions, to acknowledge fear and happiness—to be human again. Because the mask worn behind the walls changes the way people act and feel.”

The benefits of these groups have been proven, she said: a John Jay College study found better disciplinary and coping skills in prisoners who have been exposed to the arts, while a SUNY Purchase College study showed that the RTA participants finished their GEDs and moved on to post-secondary education faster than average.

The creative arts facilitate a positive change in incarcerated men and women, one which serving a prison term does not provide, Vockins said.

“For humanitarian reasons, for public safety reasons, and for just good old-fashioned economic reasons, we should change the way people come out of prison. They should come out healed and ready to come back and do something positive,” she said.

Andre Noel first came in contact with RTA while serving 15 years in the Woodbourne Correctional Facility. RTA’s dance group, Figures-in-Flight, had such a profound impact on Noel that, after completing his sentence, he vowed to continue dancing. The result was Figures-in-Flight Released, which performed at the Lincoln Center campus as part of NOFSW.

“We bring a message with us,” said Noel, the company’s director. “We want to express to society that we’re all human beings—we’ve been reformed and we’ve changed our lives. We continue dancing not just for entertainment, but to show the world that we’re capable of becoming successful in whatever we choose to accomplish.”

The group also reaches out to youth groups in the hopes of sparing them the ordeal of prison.

“We were kids when we got incarcerated,” he said. “Kids need an outlet. We try to help kids who are at risk to also express themselves through movement—to channel their anger and everything they have going on their lives.”

Woodbourne dance instructor Susan Slotnik helped choreograph the group’s dances, although some are also improvised.

“None of our movements are random, and the same movement doesn’t necessarily have to mean the same thing for each of us,” said dancer Ray Brito, who served 19 years at Woodbourne. “When we do a reaching move, one might be trying to pull himself toward a particular goal while another might be thinking about reaching toward a loved one.”

Brito credits RTA with not only helping to change the course of his life, but also keeping him going during the dark days of his imprisonment.

“In prison, everything was cold. We all knew we were in prison and couldn’t forget that,” he said. “But in dance, the aim was to feel free…  to just pay attention to yourself and nothing else.

“Attention is the very foundation of our program,” he said. “You have to be able to stand at attention, to be able to feel every breath, every heartbeat while also staying in-tuned to everything that’s going on around you. That might sound simple, but coming from our backgrounds, most of us made the mistakes that we did because we didn’t pay attention.”

Andre Noel, director of Figures-in-Flight Released




Photos by Michael Dames

Figures-in-Flight Released members include Andre Noel, Ray Brito, Jeffrey Rivera, Andre Kelley, David Montalvo, and Jason Bermudez. The group as part of the National Organization of Forensic Social Work conference, co-sponsored by Be The Evidence International and the NOFSW.

— Joanna Klimaski Mercuri

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Alumna Gives CSTEP Scholars Practical Advice on Medical School


Applying to medical school can be daunting, especially for minority students who may not have had the educational advantages of their peers.

But Nilda I. Soto, a two-time Fordham graduate and assistant dean in the office of diversity enhancement at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, wants students to know that with the proper support, they can become doctors.
Nilda I. Soto with Fordham CSTEP students at Einstein

“This is a doable, attainable goal that you have,” she told a group of 10 incoming freshmen in Fordham’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) for minority and economically disadvantaged students. “It’s a very disciplined endeavor but it’s doable.”

The students visited Einstein on July 22 as part of Fordham’s five-week CSTEP Summer Scholars program. Students live on the Rose Hill campus, take math and science courses, and visit medical, dental, and optometry schools.

In a conference room on the Einstein campus, Soto doled out practical advice on how to sequence college courses, when to take the MCAT, and the importance of summer internships.

Part of her goal for the afternoon was to debunk “the horror stories” about medical school admissions. Everyone’s heard a tale about the student “with the 3.88 average and the fabulous MCAT score who didn’t get in.” But admissions staff value more than scores, she said, citing her colleague in the diversity office at Einstein who “looks at the road you have traveled.”

If students can remain focused on their studies despite significant challenges, Soto said, “then we feel comfortable that you’re going to succeed in medical school.”

She cautioned, however, that the percentage of minority students in medical schools is low. She noted only 500 black men matriculated into medical school in 2013, out of 20,000 students, according to a chart from the American Association of Medical Colleges that Soto included in a packet she put together for the CSTEPpers. “If you don’t get the support and help, our numbers are going to look worse.”

A Bronx native, Soto graduated in 1974 from Thomas More College (Fordham’s undergraduate women’s college, which existed from 1964 until 1974, when it merged with Fordham College at Rose Hill). After earning a B.A. in urban studies, she worked on the Rose Hill campus for HEOP, the Higher Education Opportunity Program, and went on to earn a master’s degree from Fordham’s Graduate School of Education in 1978.

She has been at Einstein for 24 years, during which time she has worked closely with Michael Molina, CSTEP’s director at Fordham, advising CSTEP students early in their college careers.

“You have very good and focused young people,” she said, but they are competing against kids who’ve gone to high schools with extensive science equipment and resources. “And here are these kids thinking, ‘Maybe I got to dissect a frog.’ The program is needed to help level the playing field.”

Soto also accepts CSTEP students into her summer research program at Einstein and, in the case of at least one aspiring medical student, has provided extended mentorship.

CSTEPper Nabilah Nishat said the afternoon at Einstein—and the summer program—have made her goals seem more realistic.

“CSTEP showed me it’s possible to go into the health professions,” she said, “and because it’s possible, I’m inspired to go on.”



 —Nicole LaRosa