Fordham Alumna Receives Swanstrom-Baerwald Award

Bridget Bucardo-Rivera receives the Swanstrom-Baerwald Award. (Courtesy of IPED)

Bridget Bucardo-Rivera receives the Swanstrom-Baerwald Award. (Courtesy of IPED)

Emma Lipkind, Opinion Editor

Bridget Bucardo-Rivera, an alumna of Fordham Univeristy’s International Political Economy and Development (IPED) graduate program, became the recipient of the Swanstrom-Baerwald Award on March 9.

The ceremony was held in the Keating First auditorium, where students, faculty and the recipient’s family gathered to congratulate Bucardo-Rivera. The award “honors Fordham alumni who have shown excellence in the service of faith through the promotion of international peace and development.”

Based on information from Fordham’s IPED Director, professor Henry Schwalbenberg, the recipient is decided upon by Fordham and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). CRS is an organization aligned with the Catholic Church that works with “local, national and international Catholic institutions and structures, as well as other organizations, to assist people on the basis of need, not creed, race or nationality.”

Bucardo-Rivera received the award because of her work in various countries through CRS. Toward the end of her graduate studies, she went to Nicaragua to conduct research that would eventually be used to help provide funds to local farmers in need. She later traveled to El Salvador, where she assisted local businesses with microfinancing.

After receiving her Master of Arts in IPED from Fordham in 2009, she returned to Nicaragua, where she contributed to a proposal that garnered $10 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for small agricultural producers. Bucardo-Rivera continued this pattern of providing assistance to countries around the world with the help of CRS, such as Zambia, where she helped bring in $10 million for HIV/AIDS treatment services.

Other notable work mentioned during the ceremony was Bucardo-Rivera’s time providing relief to those affected by natural disasters in Haiti, both after the 2010 earthquake and the 2016 hurricane. When describing her work in Haiti, she mentioned the uncertainty that came with her efforts. She continued to explain that not all of her work abroad was as hectic and dire and that the nature of the projects have varied.

Now, Bucardo-Rivera serves as the Senior Technical Advisor in Capacity Strengthening for CRS, a position she has held since 2018. At the ceremony, Schwalbenberg presented the award to Bridget Bucardo-Rivera after introducing her and her work.
Maureen McCullough, who is the Northeast regional director of CRS, also gave her remarks and led a prayer at the ceremony. There were several other prayers that were recited during the ceremony, some of which were addressed to Bucardo-Rivera, and others addressed to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Those who prayed for Ukraine chose to do so because of the award’s nature being tied to international affairs. The formal ceremony was followed by questions from the audience, where students asked about more details regarding Bucardo-Rivera’s experience, both working for CRS and as an alumna of the IPED program.

Schwalbenberg explained the significance of the award: “We don’t recognize the wonderful people we have here at Fordham all the time. This way, we can recognize what a special place this is.” He also said, “I’m just amazed when you walk around the globe and you go to a trouble spot that if you dig enough, you’ll find out there’s a Fordham alum there.”

According to Schwalbenberg, the aspects of the IPED program which often produce recipients of this award include curriculum that encourages being inquisitive, competitive internships that provide real-word experiences and a large network of alumni.  Although many past recipients have been IPED alumni, Schwalbenberg said that it’s not a requirement so much as it is a pattern.

However, he said it is required that the recipient be “a Fordham alumni who works overseas for Catholic Relief Services.”
The first Swanstrom-Baerwald award was given in 2009 to Michael Weist, who earned his Bachelor of Arts in English at Fordham.

The award is named after the late Fordham professor, Friedrich Baerwald, and his mentee, Bishop Edward E. Swanstrom. Part of the reason the award was named after these two men was because Baerwald was a political philosophy professor at Fordham and Swanstrom helped found CRS, explained Schwalenberg.