Welcome Remarks from Dean Lynn Videka

Class of 2015 Convocation

NYU Trustee and Silver alumna Constance Silver and Marty Silver, dearest friend and benefactor to the Silver School of Social Work, Vice Provost Raver, Professor Coltoff, and the other faculty of the Silver School, honored family, friends, and guests, and, of course, graduates, welcome to the 2015 NYU Silver School of Social Work convocation ceremony.

Graduates, your class stands out in several important ways.

You come from all walks of life and from around the globe. You arrived at NYU from 18 different countries, including Australia, Canada, Caribbean nations, Ghana, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Mali, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and, of course, the United States. For those from the U.S. you represent 27 different states and Puerto Rico.

MSWs, you graduated from an impressive array of colleges – from UCLA to the University of London, from Tufts University to Tianjin University, from Spelman College to Shandon University, and from Peking University to Princeton University, to name just a few. You are diverse in age and experience. Some of you choose social work after successful careers in other field from teaching to finance to law. Some raised families before pursuing your MSW degree. Others are the first generation of college or graduate school graduates in their families. Many of you have had more than your share of challenges in life. One student said that her motto is "to never give up." This student embodies the spirit of all students who have overcome a lot of challenges and have decided to devote their lives to bettering society and the lives of others. In fact, it is this motivation to dedicate your career to making the world a better place and to creating opportunities and growth for others that unites you who have chosen a social work profession.  

BS graduates, you have demonstrated amazing levels of leadership as you have become global citizens and proud social workers. You showed your dedication to humanity by taking service learning as well as traditional academic courses from the time you were freshmen. You integrated technology and social good as a student POPS project, which created a mobile app to connect refugee teens with the services they need. You have a strong commitment to the populations in highest need, including criminal justice and refugee resettlement. You advocated for progressive changes at home, including removal of the past criminal record "box" on NYU applications. You are active leaders in your faith communities. Some of you took an extra step to keep agencies operative and financially afloat when crises occurred. You will go on to advanced degrees in social work and law and other fields. You will accept jobs that make the world a better place. Some of you have the distinction of being the first in your families to graduate from college.

PhD students, you have worked hard and you have excelled in your research and scholarship and teaching. You have shown yourself to be worthy and capable of becoming the knowledge creation leaders for the next generation of students at the universities at which you will be employed, Hunter College, McGill University, Stamford University, Rutgers University, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Many of you in each degree program tell me that you have had a transformative experience in your studies. You learned how social structures and policies affect individual lives. You learned how science makes for better and stronger practice and how practice informs the best research questions. You learned the power of human motivation for change, the amazing changes it can produce. You also experienced the difficulties of human change when motivation is absent. But most importantly you learned how, through knowing yourself and using your own special skills and abilities, you can be an effective agent for facilitating change, for addressing injustice, for creating social change.

You have also shown us that you are leaders. In fact there is wide agreement that the Silver School is graduating a bumper crop of leaders who know how to create change, how to stand for social justice, how to address conflicts and differences, how to achieve progressive changes that make a societal impact.

This has been a unique and special year in the events that have surrounded us. We have had painful reminders of the social structural barriers that our society faces in terms of justice and opportunity for all Americans. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and other young black men painfully awakened us to serious social injustices in our society. At Silver we had painful conversations about police injustice, about how laws and other social structures allow extreme force against oppressed people, about how to balance respect for police who do their jobs and risk their own lives diligently and with caring (some of these are members of your own family) with our outrage at living in a society that sanctions undue surveillance and deadly force against oppressed groups in our society. No we are not of one mind on these matters, but we have lived up to our responsibility as a university to sponsor dialog and learning about different points of view about these hurtful matters that divide so much of our country.  

Graduates, I congratulate you as you conclude your learning journey at NYU Silver and as you go on to contribute to the world and to the people who have the least opportunities in it. You should go with confidence into the profession, knowing that the Silver School has prepared your with a strong social justice and skills base to work at the cutting edge of social work practice in new fields of practice, such as health care reform, criminal justice systems, and other innovative areas of social change and practice.

I salute your talents and accomplishments. I wish you every success as you embark on your career challenges. I congratulate you and your families on this day of celebration and joy. Class of 2015, congratulations on completing your program and on your entering your next phase of life in the social work profession! Vice Provost Raver, faculty and staff of the Silver School, honored family members and guests, welcome to the 2015 NYU Silver School of Social Work graduate convocation ceremony!  

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