Alumni Success Stories

Social Work

Jacob Fernandes ‘17

Fernandes believes in living life on one’s own terms. For him, that means combining social services for children with his love for traveling. Since graduating, he has worked as program director at a science camp in California and led a team-building program for children in Connecticut.

“I’ve always loved working with kids,” he says. “I’m trying to use the solid background in social work I gained at Salve to create my own approach and personalize my career.”

An undeclared student as a freshman, Fernandes found his passion while working at a camp the following summer and joined the social work program during his sophomore year. “The program was more challenging than I thought it would be,” he admits. “But in the end, it proved very helpful, and when I graduated I felt a real sense of accomplishment.”

Fieldwork gave Fernandes experience in working with families of domestic abuse and in the social work department of a local school. At each assignment, his professional tutors helped him adapt the work to fit his areas of interest.

“At first, I looked at the diverse assignments I got in and out of the classroom, and wondered if they would be worth it,” he says. “But now I realize I’m applying the things I learned every day in the real world. It was totally worth it.”

Evan Gallo ‘12

The director of social services for a long-term health care facility in nearby Middletown, Gallo became interested in working in a helping profession shortly after coming to Salve. A series of interactions with Sister Johnelle Luciani, chairwoman of the Department of Social Work, helped him find his path to a fulfilling career.

He first met Sister Johnelle when she was advisor to the gay/straight/lesbian/bisexual alliance, and they developed a stronger relationship when he pitched in with the school’s relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. “She took such an interest in me,” he says. “She called me into her office and said ‘I think this would be right for you.’ I feel like she saw my potential and knew she could help me make it happen.”

Gallo credits the program, with its two years of fieldwork, for preparing him for his current position, which includes working with the elderly, which he calls his real passion. “It’s a rigorous program. It makes you devote yourself to the profession, but that’s how you get the most out of it.”

Theresa Jenner ‘05

As the director of clinical social work for three hospitals in the Lifespan network, Jenner holds herself and her staff to the highest professional standards. She learned that, she says, from the social work program at Salve.

“Sister Johnelle, Dr. Sylvia and the entire team there demanded the best from us, not only in terms of the quality of our work but in professional behavior,” she explains. “To this day, I notice that the Salve students who join us for the fieldwork know how to show up on time, dress appropriately and get the job done.”

Her advice to students currently in the program or considering the major? “Challenge yourself,” Jenner says. “Be open to field placements you might not have considered as being right for you. Get outside your comfort zone – that’s how you grow as a social worker and as a person.”