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2013 Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Philip Coltoff, MSW '64, a national leader and innovator in the field of social service and youth development, led the Children's Aid Society, one of the largest and oldest social agencies in the United States from 1980 to 2005. During this period of leadership the budget of the Society grew from $10 million to $85 million annually and developed trailblazing programs in teen pregnancy prevention, public school reform, and the reintegration of juvenile offenders. These programs have been replicated in 13,000 sites, nationally and internationally.

He currently is the Katherine W. and Howard Aibel Visiting Professor and executive-in-residence at New York University Silver School of Social Work. Coltoff is the recipient of numerous leadership awards, including the prestigious William S. White award from the United States Department of Education.

Mr. Coltoff currently teaches Executive Leadership in the Not-for-Profit Sector, a six-part seminar series. Mr. Coltoff is the author of four books, including At the Crossroads: Not-for-Profit Leadership Strategies for Executives and Boards and The Challenge of Change: Leadership Strategies for Not-for-Profit Executives and Boards.


Jama Shelton, MSW '04, LMSW, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized leader on the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth homelessness with more than 14 years of experience working with LGBT youth, the last 10 of which were focused specifically on the issue of homelessness. Jama’s dissertation research highlighted the experiences of transgender young people experiencing homelessness. After receiving an MSW in 2004, Jama began a 9-year stint at the Ali Forney Center, an organization that provides housing and supportive services for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.

Currently, Dr. Shelton is the True Colors Fund’s Forty to None Project Director, the only national organization focused solely on the issue of LGBT youth homelessness. In this role, Jama is engaged in systemic change efforts directly informed by years of direct practice experience. Having worked in the areas of direct clinical practice with LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, as well as program development, program evaluation, research, technical assistance and training, Dr. Shelton brings a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing both homeless LGBT youth and also the service providers with whom they work. Through public education, advocacy, research, and capacity building, the Forty to None Project seeks to reduce the disproportionate representation of LGBT youth in the population of youth experiencing homelessness.

Of particular importance in Dr. Shelton’s work is the role of cisnormativity in the production and maintenance of transphobia. Dr. Shelton is also an adjunct professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work and the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.

Distinguished Service to the School Award

Dr. Theresa Aiello, Ph.D. '93, is director of the Post-Master’s Certificate in Advanced Clinical Practice and co-director of the Advanced Post-Master’s Certificate in Child and Family Treatment. She is coordinator of the Child and Family Focused Learning Opportunity. Dr. Aiello was chair of human behavior for the MSW program from 2004-2010. Her curriculum areas are practice and human behavior in the MSW and PhD programs.

In May 2000, Dr. Aiello was the recipient of the New York University Distinguished Teacher Medal. She has worked as a clinician and consultant specializing in child treatment in both residential treatment and outpatient treatment for the past 28 years (most recently consultant to the Jewish Board of Family & Children's Services Manhattan North Office). Dr. Aiello is a supervisor for the National Institute for the Psychotherapies Child and Adolescent Analytic Training Program. She has presented widely at international conferences in social work, psychoanalysis, and narrative/narratology.

Dr. Aiello's interests include the intellectual history of psychoanalysis and clinical social work. Her other interests and areas of focus include: attachment theory and contemporary issues of child and adolescent treatment; psychoanalytic theories; the history of psychoanalytic theory and practice; oral history; social theory; feminist theory; and infant research. In 2000-2001, Dr. Aiello participated in a study group on infant research with Dr. Beatrice Beebe. Dr. Aiello is a participating member of the Oral History Seminar at Columbia University. She was recently elected to the National Academy of Social Work Practitioners and Scholars. In 2011, she was elected to The National Academies of Practice in Social Work as a distinguished practitioner and researcher.

Dr. Aiello is currently focused on the construction of narrative in child therapy.Her research project "What the Children Said" is a study of oral histories from child therapists on children's narrative constructions of the events of 9/11. This project is supported by the Jane Bram Fund. In 2003-04 Dr. Aiello was co-leader with Dr. Brad Lewis of a Humanities Council Colloquium, "Discourses of Identity: Psychoanalysis & Cultural Identifications." This colloquium was an interdisciplinary seminar utilizing post-Freudian, post-Lacanian, Foucauldian historicist approaches to cultural studies and political theory. Dr. Aiello was the first professor in the Silver School of Social Work to receive a Humanities council grant for this colloquium.

Her recent work includes "What the Children Said:" Children's Narrative Construction of the Events of 9/11 as told to child therapists. This research is being conducted in part at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies Child & Adolescent Comprehensive Training Program. It is funded by the William B. and Jane Eisner Bram Research Fund. Dr. Aiello has been invited to present a paper on children's narrative constructions of the events of 9/11, based on her ongoing research project at the Oral History Association Conference in Oakland, California (Oct. 24-27, 2007).

Most recently, Dr. Aiello authored Narratology, Narrativist Theories, and Children, the fourth publication in the faculty-authored research series, Issues and Action. The article describes the investigation of children's narratives, with a particular focus on the narratives of children who were affected by the events of 9/11.

Making a Difference Award

Claudia Oberweger Frank, MSW '88, is a licensed psychotherapist who has specialized in addiction and other behavioral compulsions for more than 25 years, exploring their origins and how to facilitate long-term healing for addicted individuals and their families.

Claudia is credentialed in Alcoholism Counseling and has training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and ARISE Intervention and Continuum of Care, which allows her to assist people who suffer from trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, post-traumatic stress, addiction, depression, relationship problems, family issues, problems of aging, illness, grief and loss, and more. Claudia received her Bachelor of Arts in 1969 from Washington Square College. During her undergraduate days, Claudia dreamed of becoming a counselor and making a difference in people’s lives. She taught at Marymount College, volunteered at Smithers Alcoholism Treatment Center and worked at the Freedom Institute, a revolutionary alcohol rehabilitation center started in the 1970’s. In order to fully realize her dream, Claudia pursued a Master of Social Work degree graduating from the Ehrenkranz School of Social Work at New York University in 1988. After receiving her masters, Claudia returned to work first as a counselor and then as the Clinical Director at The Freedom Institute. In her over 13 years there, she helped restore the lives of hundreds of patients and their families. Claudia has served on the boards of The Little Orchestra, Big Sisters of NYC and is currently Chair of the Pearl Theatre.

Claudia is gracious, warm and an active supporter to her alma mater. As of today, beginning with the establishment of the Claudia Mann Oberweger scholarship in 2001, more than 25 students have been able to pursue their dreams of becoming clinical professionals in social work.

As a member of the Deans Advisory Council, joining in 2003, Claudia has made significant contributions to meetings, hosted networking events and made thank you calls to philanthropic alums. In private practice since 1992, her successful consulting and psychotherapy practice in New York is committed to the mental health and well being of her clients.

Claudia is married to Yitzchak Frank, a Pediatric Neurologist and professor in Clinical Neurology and Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center.  She has two sons, Alexander Oberweger and Timothy Oberweger, and three (almost four) grandchildren.

About the Awards

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominees for the Distinguished Alumna/us Award demonstrate extraordinary professional success and achievement over the span of his/her career in social work. Achievements may include exemplary leadership in an agency or a community; contributions to the field through research and publications; an effective advocate for the social work profession; and/or involvement in professional, civic, or community organizations.

Nominees must have earned an undergraduate, masters, or doctoral degree from the NYU Silver School of Social Work.

Distinguished Service to the School

This award recognizes outstanding teaching and dedication to students. The instruction and character of recipients of this award reflects the qualities of innovation, originality, time, energy, and effort to effectively educate students. Awardees are selected by the dean.

Making a Difference Awards

The Making A Difference Award recipient embodies the elements of visionary leadership, unwavering commitment, and meaningful, continued support of social work education at NYU Silver.