Dr. Rolanda Ward,  associate professor of social work at Niagara University and endowed faculty director of the university’s Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity, and Mission, received the Champion of Justice Award from the New York state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers at a virtual ceremony on March 28.

Dr. Ward was recognized for her scholarly work and leadership focusing on society's most vulnerable, underserved, proven-risk, and oppressed populations and communities.

As a community activist, Dr. Ward has led a number of projects, including  the Niagara Falls Health Equity Task Force, which works to reduce health disparities for vulnerable residents living in Niagara County and has received several awards for its innovative, collaborative, data-driven, and action-oriented intervention method. She also co-led the City of Niagara Falls Social Justice Commission Employment Subcommittee, and serves as director of the Race, Education, Advocacy, College-Credit-Courses in High School program, providing first-generation students with an opportunity to develop transformative college habits through a five-semester, pre-college program.

On campus, Dr. Ward served as co-chair of the university’s Identifying and Dismantling Racial Inequity Task Force, which was created to identify and map the experiences of BIPOC students, faculty, staff, and alumni across all sectors of the university.

She is a  frequent presenter at local, state, and national conferences, and serves as a member of the board of directors at MENTOR New York, The Aquarium of Niagara Falls, Community Missions, Inc., The Education Collaborative of WNY, and Catholic Health Systems.

Dr. Ward joined Niagara University in 2015 as an associate professor of social work and was appointed to lead the Ostapenko Center in August 2017. She earned her doctorate in social work and sociology from Boston University and has been the lead investigator or research associate on several studies focusing on populations including BIPOC high school students, foster care youths, recent parolees, child welfare workers, and healthcare providers for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.