Category Archives: Prestigious Awards

2017 Swanstrom-Baerwald Award Ceremony

From the left: Dr. Schwalbenberg, the Permanent Observer to the Holy See Mission to the United Nations Archbishop Auza, Ms. Elizabeth Pfifer, President of Fordham University Father McShane, and Vice President of Catholic Relief Services David Palasits.

On March 8th, Fordham IPED had the honor of hosting the Swanstrom-Baerwald Award Ceremony on Rose Hill Campus. In conjunction with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Fordham awarded Elizabeth “Liz” Pfifer the prestigious award in honor of her selfless dedication to her relief and development work throughout Africa. For a full synopsis of the ceremony and Ms. Pfifer’s accomplishments, please follow this link to the Fordham News article covering the event.

The full auditorium there to celebrate Ms. Pfifer’s accomplishments

The award on the table during Father McShane’s speech praising the work Ms. Pfifer has done

Dr. Schwalbenberg introducing the award and our distinguished awardee.

IPED in attendance

Later in the evening there were two more awards presented to Mr. Osvaldo Hernandez and Ms. Lois Harr. Mr. Hernandez was awarded the Cardinal McCarrick Fellowship Travel Award, honoring the Cardinal’s work with CRS on behalf of peace and development. The fellowship will enable Mr. Hernandez to visit Fordham IPED graduate students completing field assignments with CRS in Africa so that he can experience first-hand the official international humanitarian work of the American Catholic community.

Mr. Hernandez receiving the Cardinal McCarrick Travel Fellowship Award

Ms. Harr was presented the John F. Hurley S.J. Commendation, honoring her work promoting the CRS in the United States. Please follow this link to an article covering the award and Ms. Harr’s work.

Ms. Lois Carr receiving her award, the John F. Hurley S.J. Commendation

Of course, it was an IPED event and we found time to have some fun, too.

Kelsey Garcia, IPED ’18 holding the flags of the UN, USA, and Morocco, her country of service in the Peace Corps.

Some of the IPEDers involved in a case of gender imbalance, upon request of Queen Viktoria Brezheniuk (center)

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Student Spotlight: Owen Fitzgerald, Tess Hart, and Viktoriia Brezheniuk at UNDP

Owen Fitzgerald, Therese ‘Tess’ Hart, and Viktoriia Brezheniuk (IPED ‘18) are interning at the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Equator Initiative. The main purpose of the Equator initiative (EI) is to recognize and promote the achievements and innovations of indigenous peoples and local communities. Every two years, the EI announces a global call for nominations for their prestigious award called the Equator Prize. This Prize ultimately serves “to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. As local and indigenous groups across the world chart a path towards sustainable development, the Equator Prize shines a spotlight on their efforts by honoring them on an international stage.”

Owen shared his excitement that life is never boring at the UNDP: “Our responsibilities at UNDP’s Equator Initiative are ever-changing!” Upon arrival in September of 2016, Tess and Owen were working on a research project focusing on biodiversity and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. They assessed 60 different countries’ National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), and teamed up with a few others to produce a publication highlighting their findings.

Now, their attention has been focused mainly on the Equator Prize 2017 with the help of Viktoriia, who joined the team in January 2017. The global call for nominations is being spread far and wide. In March, when nominations are due, the EI team will begin reviewing submissions for this prestigious award, a task our IPEDers will be taking part in.

As Arrupe Fellows, Tess and Owen had an automatic “in” for the position with UNDP. Viktoriia, a Ricci Fellow, was passionate about joining the team as well, so Tess and Owen offered Viktoriia’s resume to their boss and she was also accepted as an intern. 

Viktoriia, Tess, and Owen at UNDP

Owen and Tess are full-time students, interning part-time as a requirement for their fellowships. Viktoriia is pursuing her education part-time while interning with UNDP part-time and working with the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham, also part-time.

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Language Immersion Study Award: Armand Aquino, Katie McCann, Jackie Yap – France

Summer Shenanigans
Three  IPED students – Armand Aquino, Katie McCann, and Jackie Yap – spent their summer in France for an intensive French language study and cultural immersion with an Alliance Française Institution. Armand was in Toulouse; Katie was in Bordeaux; and Jackie began in Toulouse then continued on to Lyon.
Armand and Jackie were recipients of the 2016 Language Immersion Study Award (LISA) while Katie is an Arrupe Fellow who decided to use her summer grant from her fellowship to pursue French language study. French language study is part of their professional development to further their careers in international development.

Learning French at an Alliance Française Institution in France is a great opportunity because of the diversity of its students. Aside from the structured lectures, Alliance Française organizes a number of activities for its students so they can immerse themselves into the French culture. Such activities include guided tours of museums and the city, “art” hunting, and cheese (and wine) tasting (this is France, after all).

In addition, Alliance Francaise arranges homestays for the students which enables them to continue speaking in French even at home.
Armand and Katie shared that the summer experience has also been great opportunity for them to expand their network in the international development space. Both have met people working in international organizations such as the International Red Cross and World Food Programme who like them are studying French for their own professional development.
When asked for advice to students considering a language study for the summer, Jackie said that “If you are just starting out in the language, I encourage you to take advantage of the language class (audit) at Fordham. It helped me learn the basics and allowed me to be more confident in practicing the language. Also, do not be afraid to practice and make mistakes. Many, if not everyone, appreciate the fact that you are trying to learn French.”

Armand in Toulouse, France

Armand in Toulouse, France

Jackie gives a two-thumbs up to the French Cuisine even though she accidentally ordered frog legs despite the waiter’s attempt to translate what “grenouille” means.

Jackie gives a two-thumbs up to the French Cuisine even though she accidentally ordered frog legs despite the waiter’s attempt to translate what “grenouille” means.

Katie in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Katie in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Katie, Jackie, and Armand showing their IPED pride at Lourdes, France

Katie, Jackie, and Armand showing their IPED pride at Lourdes, France

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Student Spotlight: Schima Labitsch on her St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award Win

The recently concluded 46th St. Gallen Symposium held in Switzerland last May 11-13 named Schima Labitsch (IPED 2017) as the top winner for its Wings of Excellence Award. The St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award is a yearly essay competition open to students from all over the world.   Schima presented her ideas on alternatives to economic growth on stage in front of  peers from other universities and leaders from business, government and civil society.  On this student spotlight guest post, Schima shares her  experience at the St. Gallen Symposium. 


Deconstructing the Growth Conundrum

The theme of the 46th symposium is “alternatives to economic growth”. It reflects contemporary criticism directed at growth in all or several of its dimensions. At first glance, the growth conundrum appears almost disappointingly easy to solve: let’s all adopt Bhutan’s index of happiness and hope that a change in measurement will alleviate the negative side-effects of growth-led economics. However, upon closer examination, one realizes that it challenges us to suggest viable alternatives that are a) implementable instead of naïve abstractions of a complex reality, b) well understood in their consequences, and c) acceptable to a wide audience. I realized that the crux of the issue is not that we lack appropriate ideas. Human species after all is remarkably inventive in its ability to solve complex issues. But the issue is in the shortfall in execution or/and lack of political will. Economics often is politics, after all.

With fellow Fordham IPED students and St. Gallen participants Ludo Lombaard,IPED 2016, (left) and Armand Aquino, IPED 2017 (right).


My friends in the entrepreneurial sector stress that they face an abundance of ideas. However, the true success of a business or start-up is a function of how well an idea is executed, implemented and ultimately sold to outside stakeholders and consumers. I am fascinated by all these Schumpeterian creative destructors, and am interested in ways to elevate their dynamics to the macro-level of economic growth. In this regard, philosophical excursions bring valuable input to the often narrowly defined social science of Economics. Thus, the argument I formulated for the St. Gallen Symposium was influenced by a combination of fields – business, economics, philosophy and political science – and pursues the idea that we have alternative concepts to growth at our disposal. Society should focus on the implementation and acceptance of these alternative concepts or new societal framework (given that there is an agreement that the current focus on GDP-induced growth is outdated for large parts of the world). In doing so, I propose a triangular framework (find it here) drawing on insights from Michel Foucault and Ludwig Wittgenstein that can create an environment in which alternatives may come to fruition.

Presenting and defending my idea on the big St. Gallen stage next to the other finalists. (Photo Credit: Armand Aquino)

One major highlight of my St. Gallen experience is when the six finalists for the Wings of Excellence Award were asked to present their idea in public and defend them against the sharp minds of three international panelists (find the panel debate here). The truly remarkable aspect of having a big stage for your idea lies in the resulting discussions with people from all walks of life. It was delightfully surprising to discover how well an idea resonates with others. For example a linguist can advance one’s economic toolkit or a business leader thinks one’s philosophical discussions can push his/her (more practical) boundaries of thought.

Panel debate in which the three winners discuss their ideas in more detail. (Photo Credit: Armand Aquino)

The Symposium is a curious and invigorating place. It mixes old and young from different continents with different fields of expertise trying to give their approach to alternatives to economic growth. I like to think of the St. Gallen Symposium as a cross-continental incubator of ideas. It brings together the traditional and the unconventional, formulating fresh visions for our societies – sometimes practical, sometimes philosophical, sometimes heroic.

The three finalists (Colin Miller, US, from New York University; myself; Alexandra Ettlin, CH, from the University of St. Gallen) with the head of the Jury and watch sponsor. (Photo Credit: Markus Senn)

Click on the following links to view my essay,  interview, and panel debate (presentation starts from minute 59:37).


About the St. Gallen Symposium

Founded against the worldwide student protests of 1968, the St. Gallen Symposium aims to foster intergenerational and intercultural dialogue between decision-makers to advance a social and liberal economic order and to this end hosts the world’s largest student essay competition under the “St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award”.


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Prestigious Awards: Samantha J. Andrews on the Boren Fellowship in Jordan

When I am not studying, I find opportunities to travel around Jordan. One of my first trips was to Petra.

When I am not studying, I find opportunities to travel around Jordan. One of my first trips was to Petra.

This is a guest post by Samantha J. Andrews (IPED ’17) current recipient of the David L. Boren Fellowship.

The Fordham IPED program, followed by a year of intensive Arabic language study as a David L. Boren Fellow in Jordan, has given me a solid foundation from which to transition my career. As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, I have always felt a strong sense of duty. Leaving active duty service, I searched for new ways to serve my country. Fortunately, Fordham IPED offered me a Public Service Fellowship, connecting with a variety of opportunities to chart my career transition.

I was first introduced to the David L. Boren Fellowship through Fordham’s Prestigious Fellowships Office, which actively seeks out IPED students for application to competitive scholarships. I was immediately interested, as the focus of my graduate research was on the Middle East. Through our program’s career trips to the United Nations and Washington DC, as well as talking with our director, Dr. Schwalbenberg, I learned how important it would be in my career to have greater experience in the region. Thus, with the guidance and support of Fordham IPED and its staff, I applied for a twelve month, intensive language program in Jordan.

I spend three to four hours per day in formal language instruction. Here, I am pictured with one of my teachers and another student reviewing the day's lesson.

I spend three to four hours per day in formal language instruction. Here, I am pictured with one of my teachers and another student reviewing the day’s lesson.

Every day I spend in Jordan, I feel thankful for the opportunity. My language studies, while challenging, are rewarding. My sole mission in Jordan is to immerse myself in the language and culture, learning as much as I can from my experiences. Fortunately, I have found it easy to build relationship with Jordanians, due largely to their generosity. One of the highlights of my fellowship was an invitation to attend my language teacher’s wedding. The experience provided valuable cultural insight, as well as an opportunity to cross cultural barriers and build relationships with a group of women that I may otherwise have never known.

I would recommend the David L. Boren Fellowship to students who want to gain a greater understanding of a particular country or region. The Fellowship is unique because it gives you the freedom to identify your language and research goals, and then, design a program around them.

Sharing in my teacher's wedding celebration was a unique and wonderful experience.

Sharing in my teacher’s wedding celebration was a unique and wonderful experience.


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