SunTrust Gift to FSWI Funds Scholar, Fellow

January 13, 2016    |  

The University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW) has used a gift from the SunTrust Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Sun Trust Banks, Inc., to deepen social workers’ expertise in financial social work through separate scholarship and fellowship programs.

The SunTrust Foundation Scholarship Endowment in Financial Social Work has made it possible for the SSW to award an annual scholarship of $2,000 to a first-year student. The inaugural recipient is Melanie Stettz, MBA, who began pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work last fall.

The endowment fund consists of a gift of $33,333 from SunTrust Foundation, which has been bolstered by the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation, Inc., bringing the fund to $50,000. This will permit subsequent awards of a $2,000 scholarship to a first-year student in 2016-17 and in future years.

SunTrust Foundation aid recipients are Holly Mirabella, left, fellowship; and Melanie Stettz, MBA, scholarship in financial social work.

SunTrust Foundation aid recipients are Holly Mirabella, left, fellowship; and Melanie Stettz, MBA, scholarship in financial social work.

The SunTrust Foundation’s gift also allowed the SSW to award a fellowship for an advanced-year student during the 2015-16 academic year.  The recipient is Holly Mirabella of Baltimore, who performs field practice at the Maryland CASH Campaign, which promotes financial security for families with low and moderate incomes.

In addition, the gift supported administration of the Financial Social Work Initiative (FSWI) in keeping with its expanded operations. The SSW-led program focuses on economic stability and financial wellness, especially among vulnerable populations.

Stettz and Mirabella were chosen to receive the SunTrust awards “through a highly competitive process,” says SSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW.

Stettz, of Sandy Spring, Md., is a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Costa Rica and whose background includes financial system project management. Mirabella, who originally is from Seymour, Ct., is enrolled in the MSW/JD Dual Degree Program so that she is able to earn degrees from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the SSW.

Stettz says she hopes to use her business and financial background “in the service of social and economic justice” and the scholarship endowment is helping to make that possible.  “I am inspired by and grateful for the award from the SunTrust Foundation,” she says.

Mirabella says she is “humbled to have the opportunity to help close financial gaps with support from the SunTrust Foundation.  It is an honor to have been granted a chance to do this work."

In learning to become a more effective helper, there is “a price to pay,” observes Barth.  “These gifts will help reduce those costs. They also signal the increasingly high standing of financial social work in our School and in our profession.”

FSWI co-founder Meg Woodside, MSW ’07, MBA, is a trustee of the Woodside Foundation, an alumna of the School, and a member of its Board of Advisors.

“I share the school’s excitement to be partnering with SunTrust Foundation to invest in educating social workers to advance family economic security,” she says.

Speaking on behalf of the SunTrust Foundation, Sam DiPaola, MBA, president of SunTrust Banks’ Maryland region, says funding of the fellowship and scholarship is aligned with SunTrust’s purpose of “lighting the way to financial well-being.”

“A strong grounding in financial literacy is a crucial element in building self-sufficiency and creating economic security in our communities,” DiPaola says. “With formal training in financial education, students will be able to educate and coach families in the greater Baltimore community, delivering high-quality financial education where it is greatly needed.”

Jodi Jacobson Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, associate professor and FSWI chair, says SunTrust Foundation’s support “is deeply appreciated by all as we work to advance economic stability and financial capacity for the clients, communities, and systems we serve.”

Christine Callahan, PhD, LCSW-C, research assistant professor at FSWI, says, “We can attest that this kind of support makes a world of difference to students as they get though their coursework and field placements.”