Students from Fordham’s graduate schools reflected on their time at the University on Commencement Day.

First in Their Families

Lori-Ann Andrews was inspired to pursue a dual degree in early childhood and early childhood special education at the Graduate School of Education, where she wanted to “utilize the downtime” that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrews, who is in her seventh year teaching, saw a need to provide support to students receiving special education services.

“I’m getting chills right now,” she said. “Every day, I see children across the board where they need services pertaining to special ed, but they’re not getting those services, because the general ed teachers don’t have the knowledge as to what to look for. As a special ed teacher, I will be able to make sure that those students receive all the services that they need.”

Andrews was surrounded by her family, many of whom traveled to see her graduate.

“I’m really so proud of her, I actually flew in from Florida to be able to support her,” her sister Cavell Lilly said. “She really is amazing.”

Andrews said that earning a master’s degree with her family’s support felt very significant

“I’m the first [in my family]to receive a master’s degree, so it’s breaking that generational curse.”

Mardoqueo (Marc) Arteaga graduated from GSAS with a Ph.D. in Economics

Mardoqueo Arteaga, who earned a Ph.D. in economics from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and served as the president of the Graduate Student Government, said a speech six years ago by Joseph M. McShane, S.J., then president of Fordham, inspired him to enroll in the doctoral program.

“I was a DACA recipient,” said Arteaga, referring to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young people brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. “In 2017, Father McShane sent out a message that was pretty convincing about this place being a place where I felt safe to come—and inclusive. I knew I wanted to get a Ph.D., and I thought this would be a good place to kind of be intellectually free, while also knowing that the community was rather supportive of someone like me.”

Arteaga, who goes by Marc, will be starting work as an economist with KPMG. He views earning a Ph.D. as both a privilege and responsibility.

“It’s a privilege to do so because I know that my family, and where I come from—you don’t have those kinds of opportunities,” he said. “But more than anything, I also consider it a responsibility, because I’m changing a narrative that would otherwise remain unchanged.”

New York City: The Finance and Fintech Capital

Shafrin Mustafa said that the reputation of the Gabelli School of Business’ MBA program and its location drew her in.

“I know that they had a really great reputation and it was located in New York, and this is where I wanted to be,” said Mustafa, who is graduating with an MBA with a double concentration in finance and fintech.

Mustafa, who is from Canada, said her time in the program flew by, as she’ll be starting work with American Express in July.

“It’s been a very exciting journey. It almost feels like it just started yesterday so I can’t believe we’re here already.”

Three graduate students pose for a photo
Graduate School of Social Work graduates Carolyn Peguero Spencer, Danielle Jimenez, and Denise Gosselin

Research for Single Mothers and Education

Three students graduating with their doctoral degrees from the Graduate School of Social Work, Carolyn Peguero Spencer, Danielle Jimenez, and Denise Gosselin, said that they leaned on the community they developed at Fordham.

“You really have to have a beautiful cohort to get through. You’re not going to get through this alone,” said Spencer, a licensed clinical social worker, who got her master’s at the Graduate School of Social Work in 2000. She decided to return for the doctoral program to finish some “unfinished work.”

“I just saw a lot of things and we didn’t have data for it and research for it, so I was told, ‘You do it. You research it.’”

And so she did, putting together her thesis on single mothers in the Latina community, titled Intersecting Identities, Education, and Economic and Subjective Well-Being: A Qualitative Testimonio Study Among Latina Single Mother Community College Students.

Additional reporting by Patrick Verel