Faculty News

Drs. Merritt and James Honored with NYU Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award

Photo of NYU Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award Recipients Dr. Kirk "Jae" James and Dr. Darcey Merritt

Clinical Assistant Professor Kirk “Jae” James and Associate Professor Darcey Merritt have been selected to receive NYU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award. Sponsored by the Offices of the President and Provost in partnership with the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation, the award recognizes outstanding faculty who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through teaching excellence, leadership, social justice activism, and community building.

Drs. James and Merritt are among nine 2020 award recipients from across NYU, chosen by a selection committee chaired by Dr. Karen Jackson-Weaver, Associate Vice President, Global Faculty Engagement and Innovation Advancement.

According to Dr. Jackson-Weaver, “The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award is one of the most prestigious honors a faculty member at NYU can receive. This award allows us to recognize individuals who demonstrate the drive, passion, and tenacity that Dr. King embodied while also allowing us the opportunity to highlight the different types of faculty appointments across NYU’s Global Network. I have had the privilege to work with both Professors James and Merritt and truly they epitomize the legacy of Dr. King. Their devoted service and commitment to excellence is exemplary.”

Dr. James is a widely recognized human rights and social justice advocate whose research focuses on deconstructing issues of mass incarceration––specifically as it pertains to trauma, cognitive development, culpability, and the examination of systems that foster and perpetuate racial injustice. He launched the Evolving Justice initiative at NYU Silver to build community among social work students and professionals, advocates, and concerned people, and facilitate dialogue towards the emancipatory exploration of justice in theory and action. He is a faculty affiliate of NYU's Initiative on Human Rights Innovation and Strategies to Reduce Inequality initiative, and he works collaboratively with the Center For Justice at Columbia University on its annual “Beyond The Bars” conference. He is a mentor to both justice-involved students and others who are committed to careers advancing liberation.

Dr. Merritt is internationally recognized for her expertise in child welfare, with research interests including child maltreatment prevention; maltreatment type definitional issues; neighborhood structural impact on maltreatment; and the lived experiences of those served by public child welfare systems. She is currently Principal Investigator on a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded study to elicit the parental decision-making processes that result in behaviors typically deemed by child welfare service providers as neglectful. She is also an effective advocate for social justice at the university and beyond. She is the chair-elect of the NYU Faculty Senate, and a member of the board of the Society for Social Work and Research, whose Social Policy Committee she chairs. She was a leading advocate for the establishment of NYU Silver’s Social Justice Praxis Committee, is the advisor to the School’s Black Women’s Social Work Coalition, and is a mentor to countless students and faculty of color.

Drs. James and Merritt will receive their awards during the University’s 15th Annual MLK Week, which commemorates Dr. King’s 1961 visit to NYU and his impactful legacy.


NYU Silver Communications Office