Dr. Rolanda Ward, director of Niagara University’s Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity & Mission and associate professor of social work, was honored for her leadership in fostering social justice, equity, democracy, and inclusion by Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope and for her work as a member of the Niagara Falls Health Equity Task Force by Leadership Niagara.

Dr. Ward received the Service to the Community award from NOAH at its annual “Blue Tie” Awards Gala Oct. 22, 2021, in recognition of her work in creating and leading the task force and her tireless efforts to educate the Niagara Falls community about the COVID-19 vaccine. Throughout the early months of the pandemic, Dr. Ward worked with representatives from healthcare, faith communities, schools, community agencies, and government to ensure that access to testing, tracing, food, shelter and housing, medicine, and other supplies were available to all members of the community, especially the underserved. When vaccines were developed, she began focusing on education and encouraging all members of the Niagara Falls community to get vaccinated.

The task force was also honored as Organization of the Year by Leadership Niagara at its annual awards luncheon Nov. 4.

Dr. Ward has been an associate professor at Niagara University since 2015 and was appointed to lead the Ostapenko Center in August 2017. She currently serves on the WNY COVID-19 Research Collaborative’s executive and steering committees, the WNY Health Equity Vaccine Hub, and the WNY Digital Inclusion and Equity Coalition.

Dr. Ward earned her doctorate in social work and sociology from Boston University and has been the lead investigator or research associate on a number of studies focusing on society’s most vulnerable, underserved, and proven-risk populations. These populations include BIPOC high school students, foster care youths, recent parolees, child welfare workers, and healthcare providers for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.