Ali Swoish, Dolce Fellow

She Forever Changed the Lives of Iona Students

Iona Forever

Through the Iona Forever campaign, the Iona College Counseling Center created the Dolce Postgraduate Fellowship with the goal of addressing the complex needs of Iona students who are neurodivergent. The College’s current fellow, Ali Swoish, quickly made impactful and lasting strides within the program.

Serving as a part of the clinical team at the Counseling Center, one of Ali's early achievements was working with a nonspeaking autistic student to initiate the first Neurodiversity Club on campus. She also hosted a panel discussion for neurodivergent students to share their very personal stories, inviting others to examine campus culture and consider how Iona approaches neurodivergent experiences.

"With my own self-advocacy and my own neurological differences, I get to advocate for students on campus and teach them to build on their strengths and allow them to grow in ways I never believed possible during a pandemic," she said. "It’s more than I could have imagined myself doing right out of grad school, handling both community and campus care."

As supervisors and hosts of the fellowship, the Counseling Center supports Ali to do campus-wide outreach and training as well as clinical work. Her goal is to reach the entire campus as well as individual students, as she offers training and program opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to understand and support neurodivergent peers.

"I got to step into an advisor role so early in my career," she said. "It has been powerful partnering with clubs, RAs, students and faculty to promote awareness and shift campus culture."

Ali also teaches a small group seminar called Gael Chat. This innovative course uses an evidence-based experiential model to help neurodivergent students engage in social and emotional skill building, including forms of expression, environmental awareness, body language, social signals, effective conflict resolution, self-enquiry and mindfulness skills. For the first time since the initiation of Gael Chat, the course is enrolled to maximum capacity for fall 2021.

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of over 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is accredited by AACSB International, a prestigious recognition awarded to just five percent of business schools worldwide. The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2021.” Iona University also recently launched a new, fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona University and NewYork-Presbyterian announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, to be principally located on the University’s new campus in Bronxville, N.Y. Supported by a $20 million gift from NewYork-Presbyterian, the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences offers a new vision for collaborative health care education, modern workforce development, and community care. On July 1, 2022, Iona officially changed its status from College to University, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.