Silver School Recognizes Alumni Day Awards Honorees

The NYU Silver School of Social Work honored its 2013 Alumni Awards recipients on NYU Alumni Day, Saturday, October 19, 2013, during the Dean’s Luncheon.

Dean Lynn Videka began the ceremony with a state of the school address, detailing the Silver School’s four strategic goals for advancement as a social work institution: to advance scientific knowledge and develop a scientific knowledge agenda; to offer excellent academic programs at the Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctoral levels; to engage vigorously and productively with both the local and global communities; and to rededicate itself to the pursuit of social justice and diversity. She highlighted Silver’s continued success in field placement partnerships with over 800 community organizations throughout the city, and spoke of Silver’s new focus on integrative healthcare in response to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The following awards were then presented:

Claudia Oberweger Frank, MSW ’88, received the Making the Difference Award for her gracious support of Silver students through the Claudia Mann Oberweger Scholarship fund, which provides financial awards for academically excellent students who demonstrate financial need.

Dr. Theresa Aiello, PhD ’93, an associate professor at Silver, received the Distinguished Service to the School award in recognition of her outstanding teaching and dedication to students as 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.

Phil Coltoff, MSW ’64, the Katherine W. and Howard Aibel Visiting Professor at Silver, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his exemplary 25-year leadership of the Children’s Aid Society, and for his advocacy in the community for children and families in need.

Dr. Jama Shelton, MSW ’04, received the Distinguished Alumna award for her dedication to, and championship of, homeless LGBT youth. Dr. Shelton spent nine years at the Ali Forney Center, helping to guide the creation and expansion of the most expansive housing program in the country for homeless LGBT youth; she left this year to serve as director of the Forty to None Project, which works to raise awareness about, and bring an end to, LGBT youth homelessness.

Keynote speaker Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts, III, received the Distinguished Community Service Award for his tremendous commitment to community service, education, and the ideals of
a socially just society. The founder of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, which has brought more than $500,000,000 in real estate development and social services to Harlem, Dr. Butts is a minister, scholar and activist whose work has changed the landscape of public education in New York City.

In a 30-minute address on the topic of serving students of color, Dr. Butts highlighted the importance of truly knowing one’s students. It is not enough to merely identify a student as a student of color; to be an effective educator, one must identify the student’s cultural heritage and ethnicity, and acknowledge the unique needs and approaches those backgrounds bring. Identification of skin color is not enough, Dr. Butts pointed out. The student is not just black--is he Guyanese? Dominican? Academic institutions must dig deeper, and professors act as investigators of their students, for only by identifying them and truly getting to know them can they be most effective as educators.

Dr. Butts also spoke at length on the purposes of higher learning, stating that education should "build your knowledge, develop your character, and help you earn a living." He then expounded on the notion of character, recalling Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that his children would one day live in a nation "where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Character, according to Dr. Butts, is the avoidance of luxury, an appreciation of the love of beauty, the capacity to endure, and a concern for courtesy.

"To serve students of color in our university," he said, "we’ve got to identify who we are and begin to develop a greater appreciation for the other — to overcome our xenophobia. We’ve got
to have high expectations, and help them [students of color] have an appreciation for the world in which we live. Like it or not," he joked, "people of color are going to continue to grow and demand more and more of the world. Even if we don’t want to serve people of color, we’re going to have to! But what’s more important is that we learn to serve each other."