2023 Graduation Speakers

DSW Student Speaker

Krystal Folk headshotKrystal Folk

Dr. Krystal Folk is an abolitionist social worker passionate about dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and advocating for and advancing the lives of Black and Brown youth and women. She is the Director of Social Work at a KIPP Middle School. She has previous experience working as a therapist at an alternative to incarceration program and as a forensic social worker at a public defender’s office. Dr. Folk is an adjunct professor and field instructor at NYU Silver School of Social Work and works part-time at Columbia University’s School of Social Work Online Campus. Dr. Folk has represented her DSW cohort as the class representative and the DSW representative for Silver’s Social Justice Praxis Committee for her time in the program.

Pa Thor headshotPhD Student Speaker

Pa Thor

Pa Thor is a Clinical Research Associate in the Anesthesiology, Critical Care, and Pain Management Department at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Pa's research focuses on family violence, wellness, and health services. She is passionate about studying healthcare segregation and mental health issues impacting marginalized and ethnic minority populations. Since completing her PhD in August 2022, Pa has continued her education by pursuing an Advanced Certificate in Clinical and Translational Research at Weill Cornell Medicine through the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Grant. Pa combines her social work education and background with her clinical research training to bridge practice and science, bringing research from the bench to the bedside and from the bedside to the community. She previously taught graduate courses for the Silver Master of Social Work Program. She earned her MSW from California State University, Stanislaus, and her BA from the University of California, Merced.

BS Student Speaker

Selin Ceren UzmanSelin Ceren Uzman

Selin is graduating with her BS in Social Work and a minor in Social & Public Policy. She completed her field placement at Breakthrough New York as part of the Student Support Department, where she spent her senior year developing and facilitating social-emotional learning workshops as well as engaging in direct clinical work with students. Selin is committed to shifting the commonly-held ideas and notions surrounding “mental illness” which work to posit it as an individual issue rooted primarily in a person’s biology; she strives to advocate for a greater acknowledgment of the role of socioeconomic factors, adverse and traumatic experiences, and broader systemic failures in contributing to the psychological distress felt by so many today. Outside of her professional interests, Selin enjoys taking part in a variety of community-building initiatives for the LGBTQ+ community, and she currently organizes and leads a basketball group for lesbians in NYC.

MSW Student Speaker

 Hilary Hernandez

Hilary Hernandez (she/her/hers/Ella) is an Afro-Dominican daughter of immigrant parents whose journey to social work began through her work as a college advisor. Over the past six years, Hilary has supported countless students and families navigate the decision making and knowledge building around post-secondary education. Hilary believes that pursuing her Masters of Social Work has allowed her to explore and deepen her passions for advocacy and social change. She is excited to work with adolescents and families and hopes to find creative ways to continue supporting young people in the future. Hilary believes it is a true honor to support individuals in their healing journey and feels immensely grateful for this privilege. 

Graduation Address

David Banks headshotHon. David C. Banks

Chancellor, New York City Department of Education

David C. Banks is Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the largest school system in the nation. Appointed on January 1, 2022, he is the former President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, and the founding principal of The Eagle Academy for Young Men, the first school in a network of innovative all-boys public schools in New York City and Newark, N.J.

David is a lifelong New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, and proud graduate of New York City public schools, attending P.S. 161 in Brooklyn and Hillcrest High School in Queens. After a year working as a school safety officer, he began his first teaching job at P.S. 167 in his childhood neighborhood on Eastern Parkway. From there, he went on to become a founding principal at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, and later at the Eagle Academy for Young Men. 

David’s vision of education emphasizes a partnership between schools and communities based on the guiding principles of academic excellence, leadership, and character development. With the Eagle Academy Foundation, he set out to prove that a high-quality college preparatory education for young men of color can be provided in a public-school setting.

In 2004, David led the establishment of the first Eagle Academy for Young Men as part of New York City’s high school reform initiative in partnership with 100 Black Men, Inc. The Eagle model has since been adopted in schools throughout all five New York City boroughs and Newark, N.J., expanding nationally through the Eagle Institute. 

In 2019, in partnership with Scholastic, David helped curate the Rising Voices Library, a collection of nonfiction, biographical, and fiction books celebrating Black and Latino boys designed to provide students in grades K–5 with high-interest, culturally-relevant texts that give context to what they’re experiencing in the world around them. He also authored the nonfiction title SOAR: How Boys Learn, Succeed, and Develop Character, published in 2015.

David is a co-founder of Black EdFluencers United, an organization dedicated to influencing and developing the capacity of Black educators and raising awareness about systemic challenges within education. He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the International Boys’ Schools Coalition, co-chair of New York City Young Men's Initiative, and founding board member of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color.

David is a graduate of Rutgers University and received his Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law. In 2003 David participated in the Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals at the Teachers College Columbia University. In May 2014, David was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in education from Wheelock College. David lives in New York City. He has four adult children and three granddaughters.

Alumni Network Welcome

Luisa Lopez wearing a red blazer in front of a gray backdropLuisa Lopez, MSW ’18

President, Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund; Director of Social Services and Communications, The Urban Outreach Center of NYC

Luisa Lopez, LMSW, is a native of New York City and currently serves as President of the Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund and Director of Social Services and Communications for The Urban Outreach Center of NYC. In 2022, she served as NYU Silver’s inaugural Alum-in-Residence with a particular focus on engaging with Latinx-identified students with the goal of creating a more inclusive student experience.

Luisa was previously Director of Digital Media at the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, Gale A. Brewer and Chief of Staff at the NYC Council. Immediately after she earned her MSW from NYU Silver in 2018, she served in the Washington, DC office of former Congressman José E. Serrano as a policy fellow with a focus on addressing community issues in the South Bronx. 

In her career, Luisa has concentrated on addressing structural challenges by developing and implementing social interventions aimed at effecting positive change at all levels of government. Additionally, Luisa has become an advocate for the increased accessibility and availability of assisted reproductive technology, as well as de-stigmatizing infertility in communities of color. 

As President of the Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund, Luisa is a fierce advocate for increasing the number of culturally and linguistically competent social workers serving in New York City’s most vulnerable communities, as well as for the importance and value that social workers bring to all areas of public life and civic engagement.

In addition to her MSW, Luisa holds a BA in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross.