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Ph.D. student Alexandria Forte named 2023 Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year

Ph.D. student Alexandria Forte talks to an individual at the 2023 Ph.D. reception.Alexandria Forte has been named UNC School of Social Work’s 2022-23 Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year. The annual award recognizes doctoral students who demonstrate exemplary scholarship, teaching, service, leadership and collegial support of fellow students.

Forte, who was nominated for the award by her Ph.D. colleagues and peers, was recognized during a reception for graduating doctoral students on Friday, May 12, 2023, at the School’s Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building.

Since enrolling in the School’s doctoral program in 2019, Forte has centered her research in the areas of nutrition and social justice for Black families, with a particular emphasis on improving the detection of food insecurity among children and adolescents. As a scholar and the William R. Kenan Jr. Fellow within UNC’s Royster Society of Fellows, she has produced eight peer-reviewed publications, one book chapter, three reports, and 15 presentations in these areas during her tenure in the Ph.D. program.

In addition, she has collaborated with her peers and with University faculty, many of whom have been impressed with Forte’s drive, passion and commitment to a research area that largely has been understudied among social work researchers.

“Alex represents the future of social work,” praised Associate Professor Rainier Masa, who has worked closely with Forte. “As a social work doctoral student, she is filling the workforce gap in terms of researchers of color who are interested in culturally relevant and community-engaged food and nutrition intervention research with racial and ethnic minority groups. She is motivated and passionate about her research and keen on learning and applying theories and methods to understand better and improve human conditions.”

Forte’s scholarship also emphasizes powerful research questions and advanced research methods to move the science forward, added her colleagues and doctoral peers. Moreover, she demonstrates leadership in everything she does.

“She has a reputation for being committed to rigorous and ethical research methods that elevate the communities with whom she works” her nominators praised. “Further, she is diligent, hard-working, and organized in ways that improve every team in which she participates. Along with her advanced skills in analysis and writing, these qualities have positioned Alex to be a leader in her field.”

Forte’s award also recognizes her leadership in the classroom. Known as a gifted instructor, she has taught foundational classes on foundations for evidence-based Practice and program evaluation and courses on confronting oppression. In addition, she has lectured on topics related to food insecurity and food policy. Capable of creating a learning environment where “students feel heard and challenged,” Forte allows her students to “make mistakes and grow,” her nominators noted.

Known for offering unwavering support to her colleagues, Forte was praised for advocating on behalf of all doctoral students to ensure that they each receive needed support to succeed.

Alexandria Forte, right, was awarded the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for 2023. She poses with Ph.D. Associate Dean Mimi Chapman.
Associate Dean for Doctoral Education Mimi Chapman awards Alexandria Forte the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for 2023 during a Ph.D. reception on May 12, 2023.