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Spotlight Project - Highlighting Fordham Community's voices: Students, Faculty, Alumni

Michelle Nista - Student

“I was a student caller at Fordham’s Phonathon program, which is a phone fundraising program and this is really where I was first introduced to the Fundraising world. During my undergraduate degree, I wasn't really sure that this (fundraising) was a career option, I feel lucky to have stumbled upon it along the way,” says Michelle Nista, the Assistant Director at Fordham Fund. 

Nista is working full-time in fundraising while also earning her M.A. in Public Media with a track in Strategic Communications at Fordham. She believes that this program felt ‘like a natural fit given what it offered and how many colleagues had been a part of it.’ “For me, continuing to grow and develop my professional skill set (through) my master's program is something that I hope to integrate into the work that I do.” 

She says that her program was pivotal in helping her understand the fundraising world in greater depth. “A lot of times fundraising is how you are able to communicate your mission and the mission of your organization,” she says.


“Being able to communicate the message and help connect the great work being done at Fordham to the alumni community and our larger donor community is definitely something I hope I continue to do and learn more about.” She says, “I really enjoy the work that I do, and learning the theory of it while putting it in practice has been a positive and rewarding experience overall.”

Dr. Caroline Pogge is the current program director of Fordham’s M.S. in Health Administration. Having started her directorship in 2022, Dr. Pogge says “being a colonel in the army reserve for 26 years helped me bring in my experience as an army officer and some of that has really formed me as a person and as a leader.”

Dr. Pogge says that her transition as an adjunct professor to program director had its complexities due to her deployment in 2021. However, she was grateful to the dean’s office in GSAS, who she said was supportive and patient as she transitioned into this role.

"After over 15 years managing both inpatient healthcare and clinical practices I really wanted to help students translate their classroom knowledge into operational reality. This meant taking an opportunity to get my doctorate, which I completed in 2019. Actually as I started at Fordham, I was also defending my dissertation.” She adds the program is home in NYC and offers students access to so many accomplished and renowned professionals not just here in New York but also internationally. 

“The ability to work or engage with some of these professionals and executives will help our students to have better leverage points in their learning and also their overall professional development.”

Ysabella Escalona works as an Associate Producer at Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, INC. (HITN). Escalona graduated with her M.A. in Public Media (PMMA) this summer, and credits the program for helping her start her career. “I found my internship through Fordham, they helped me land this internship that is actually my current job.” 

She interned at HITN while studying at the PMMA program, which she says was ‘challenging’. 

She says, “At first it was really difficult because it was the beginning of me being an independent woman and living in New York having to work and study.” She says her program helped her professionally, “because English is my second language and I am still not an expert in writing in English but I learned a lot like how to use better words and better writing skills.”

She says that an essential part of the program is the sense of friendship and community she felt. “I didn't know anyone (and) most of my friends in the city, I met them through the program, it not only helped with knowledge but also helped with building connections.”

For all prospective or incoming students, one important thing she notes is that “the professors are friendly and willing to help you and they’re all experts in what they do.” She also adds that the equipment Fordham provides like cameras or tripods should be ‘greatly’ utilized “because (these devices) will help you especially if you want to work in TV.” She believes that students should be prepared to learn at their own pace. “It's up to you how much time and effort you put into it and how much you want to learn,” she says.

Dr. Gary M. Weiss is the director of the MS in Computer Science program and a Professor of Computer and Information Science. Dr. Weiss is an alumnus of Cornell University and Stanford University who worked at AT&T Bell Labs for 18 years before joining Fordham as an Assistant Professor in 2004. He directed the MS program in Computer Science from 2014- 2016 and then again from 2021 until today. He says that one of the reasons that made Fordham the better place to bring his expertise was “the balance between research and teaching.”

He says the M.S. in Computer Science program at Fordham has grown over the years, especially with the addition of the graduate Data Science and Cybersecurity programs. He adds that there are a variety of interdisciplinary specializations for the students to choose from in every program, which helps them explore their interests and learn at the same time. While the core learning process is unchanged, he says that many of the graduate courses are taught by “industry experts, using the most up-to-date technologies (in their work life) who bring their industry knowledge into the classroom.”

Alice Grissom - Student

Meet Alice, Alice Grissom is a second-year medieval studies student. They are currently a project manager on the Medieval New York project, part of Fordham’s Center of Medieval Studies. Grissom received their bachelor’s degree in History and English with a concentration in linguistics. They say that their interest in medieval studies sparked when they learnt the history of English language and took a medieval English course during sophomore year. 

They say, “I spoke with my mentor and she really encouraged me to follow up on my interests and narrowed it down and focus on medieval studies and English applications.”

Fordham was the best choice for them, they say, because “It's an interdisciplinary program so I have the opportunity to take classes with a lot of different focuses. I think Fordham is really known for its digital humanities projects (like) the Medieval New York project, the Siege of Antioch, and then the Medieval Londoners and the whole collection of former and on-going projects which really caught my attention and appealed to me.” They add,“It’s a program that is strong in Digital Humanities and has a Strong Community.”

Grissom recently started their thesis, which explores Anchorites (a form of religious recluse) and their practice in central to late medieval England. After finishing their masters, they are interested in completing a PhD in English and will continue to focus on the medieval period and the Medieval New York project.

Dr. Beth Knobel - Faculty

Dr. Beth Knobel is the director of the Masters in Public Media Program (PMMA) and an Associate Professor in our Communication and Media Studies Department. Dr. Knobel is a seasoned multimedia journalist by profession. She has worked with many significant media organizations including television and radio's CBS News, where she served as the Moscow Bureau Chief for seven years.

Her connection as a professor at Fordham dates back to 2007 while her tenure as the director of PMMA started in 2020. She says “I chose to come here for two reasons,.. I really wanted to be in my hometown of New York City and I really believe in the Jesuit mission of Fordham, which is to create people who want to make the world a better place in some way”

“The Public Media program tries to create communicators in the public interest, so half our program is strategic communication where we prepare people to tell stories and advocate for good causes and half our program is journalism in the public interest, where we train people preferably to go into nonprofit or public broadcasters,” she says. “Anyone who is interested in us (Fordham) should really delve into the details of our program.” 

Knobel adds that a prospective student should really think of what they want from their education and what gets them excited to learn and grow as a human and a citizen of the world. 

Sarah Holsberg - Student

Sarah is a first-year English student and a published poet! She was born and raised in New York City in a family of artists. “I was really just surrounded by art, surrounded by culture at a very young age,” which she believes is one of the reasons behind her passion for consuming and creating literature.

“In 2021 I ended up teaching in an independent school here in the city during that time I really loved teaching and I was teaching 3rd grade at that time,” she says. While teaching young minds she missed the intellectually mature and enriching conversations and also being a student. 

She says, “When the opportunity came to join Fordham I was really excited by that and and I decided why not pursue this opportunity to become to be a better reader, better writer, better thinker and to really really benefit not just my own thinking but my own career prospects in the future.” 

According to her, Fordham’s legacy and history with the city make it a very unique place to learn English. She says, “The Graduate English Association does a great job of making sure that even though graduate school is something that's very mentally draining, you stay connected to others and like the community is something I'm really glad for. I was able to see it's made going through graduate school more welcoming and better overall.”

Andrew Rasmussen - Faculty

Andrew Rasmussen is the program director of the M.S. in Applied Psychology Methods at Fordham University and has been associated with the university since 2005. 

"I am a Clinical Psychologist who initially worked with refugees and asylum seekers at a clinic at New York University and Bellevue Hospital. In 2012, I was hired to run a Master's program in Applied Psychological Methods, which is one of the two psychology programs (offered by Fordham University's GSAS)."

Reflecting on his decision to join Fordham, he explains, "I was in New York, I wanted to stay in New York. I was aware of Fordham's reputation and was looking forward to this shift from my previous experience at New York University's Medical School, where I spent eight years."

Professor Rasmussen emphasizes the broad scope of the psychology master's programs beyond the traditional perception of Clinical Psychology, which often focuses on one-on-one sessions addressing issues like depression and anxiety. 

Regarding the program size, he states, "We intentionally keep our programs relatively small to compete effectively with institutions like New York University and Teachers College (Columbia University) who accept larger cohorts.” 

Smaller class sizes were prioritized to facilitate meaningful interactions among students and to ensure strong connections between our clinical research programs and faculty, according to him.

Offering advice to prospective students, he suggests, "I would say figure out what you really like about psychology and then figure out what you need to get in order to do more with that type of psychology because it is a broad field with a lot of different skills." 

Professor Rasmussen highlights the uniqueness of Fordham's master's programs, stating, "What sets us apart is that our students study the same curriculum as doctoral students in their early years of study.” This ensures a rigorous academic experience. Furthermore, he says the program strives to establish a strong connection with students right from the beginning, fostering a positive faculty-student dynamic.

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