As it does every year, the School of Professional and Continuing Studies diploma ceremony—part of Fordham’s May 20 commencement exercises—celebrated Fordham’s nontraditional students, some of whom were completing educational journeys begun elsewhere, years ago.

In an address, one of this year’s graduates, Samantha Ives, spoke about the challenges of going back to school—in her case, resuming her studies after a 20-year gap, during which she raised two children and sought to clarify her direction through various efforts such as volunteering and serving on a nonprofit board.

“I considered going back to school, but three years of actor training 20 years ago wasn’t worth much anywhere I looked—until Fordham,” she said. She brought her 1997 transcripts to one of the school’s information sessions, “and they [oriented] all of who I had been and all of who I was at that moment toward a degree that spoke to who I wanted to become,” said Ives, who earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership.

Angela-Filomena C. LoCascio

The school bestowed degrees on 124 graduates at the ceremony, held at Fordham Preparatory School, adjoining Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. They included approximately 25 military veterans and a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, Ashley de Florio, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science magna cum laude.

The Charles A. O’Neill, S.J., Memorial Award was presented to Angela-Filomena C. LoCascio, who completed the school’s honors program while earning her bachelor’s degree in English. After that, graduates crossed the stage to receive their ceremonial scrolls.

One of them, Carmen Damiani-Hacker, was joined onstage by her daughter, Marissa Hacker, who graduated that day from Fordham College at Rose Hill.

Reading Kant on Lunch Breaks

In her remarks, Ives touched on the experience of returning students and the particular strengths they brought to their schooling. “We took science with classmates who had just finished high school science. We read Kant on our lunch breaks,” she said.

“Many of you coached your own kids through their own transitions to college,” she said. “You changed jobs, you moved once or twice, and you’re still here. We all came here. We didn’t need to find ourselves. We needed to hone the tools we carried. Those tools are battle tested. They are worn, they are strong. We’ve spent the last few years sharpening them up.”

“We’re going to need them,” she said. “We’re going to go apply for that promotion, ask for that raise, start grad school or law school or a brand new profession.”

She acknowledged the graduates’ loved ones who were present, watching online, or present in spirit.

“Every late night, every missed dinner, every Zoom class broke down old walls and made room to grow. But we needed you,” she said. “We need your hearts and your hands, because we’re not done building.”

“Our foundation is strong. Our tools are sharp. We have become architects, and the world we are going to build will be spectacular.”


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].