NYU Silver Appoints Social Justice Leader Jennifer Jones Austin, Esq. as Visiting Scholar
In a move that furthers the NYU Silver School of Social Work vision of preparing its students for careers of meaningful impact in the communities that need them most, the school has appointed Jennifer Jones Austin, Esq., a leader in anti-poverty and social justice policy, advocacy and law, as a Visiting Scholar. She will focus on the development of curricula in partnership with faculty, advance initiatives relating to social work policy and poverty, and help to deepen the school’s community engagement relating to research, policy and public awareness.
“Jennifer is a standard bearer for values that social workers hold dear: social justice, equity and inclusion,” says Michael A. Lindsey, PHD, MSW, MPH, Dean of the NYU Silver School. “As the chair of the New York City Racial Justice Commission, this year she converted these values into action, ensuring the passage of three first-in-the nation racial justice ballot proposals. Our students and the rest of the Silver Community will benefit greatly from her wisdom and advocacy.”
Said Jones Austin, “I’m trained in the law, but have worked throughout my career with social workers. That’s why I like to call myself a lawyer with a social worker’s heart. It’s also why I am excited for the opportunity to work with Dean Lindsey and his colleagues at NYU Silver during an inflection point for both the profession and society. Their vision for social work training recognizes that individuals, families and communities in need are best served when we are also prepared to move institutions and societal structures toward more equitable policies and practices.”
New York City Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom reacted to the news of Jennifer’s appointment, saying, “Our city’s higher educational institutions have a critical role to play in preparing a social service workforce that meets the pressing needs of our residents and helps them to thrive. Jennifer Jones Austin’s passion and commitment are unrivaled in the social service and racial justice arenas, particularly in how they intersect with policy, grassroots action and the law. She has shared an immense amount of wisdom with me over the years that we've worked together, and I know that Dean Michael Lindsey, the students and the faculty at the NYU Silver School of Social Work also will benefit greatly from her expertise.”
Ms. Jones Austin has been a trailblazer in the field of social services and social justice, in New York and nationally. She leads a top anti-poverty, policy and advocacy organization as the CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), which has 170 member agencies and faith partners. In addition to being Chair of the NYC Racial Justice Commission, she is Vice Chair of the Board of National Action Network and a member of the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior Advisory Board at Harvard University. Additionally, Jennifer is the scholar-in-residence at Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary Center for Racial Reconciliation.
Previously, Jennifer served as Senior Vice President of the United Way of New York City; the City of New York’s first Family Services Coordinator; Deputy Commissioner for the NYC Administration for Children’s Services; Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer; and Vice President for LearnNow/Edison Schools, Inc.
She is a radio show co-host (WBLS’ “Open Line,” “Keep’n It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton”), author (Consider It Pure Joy, 2018, The Church Online) and editor (God in The Ghetto: A Prophetic Word Revisited, 2021, Judson Press). She earned her law degree from Fordham University School of Law, a Master’s degree in Management and Policy from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and a Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University.
David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society, said, “As long as I have known Jennifer, she has been an eloquent and powerful voice for social justice, economic justice and lifting marginalized communities struggling against the twin crises of poverty and income inequality. I have been privileged to watch her rise to become a leader in our city providing a vision and a framework for combating persistent poverty and inequities that hold back too many of our citizens. And she is only getting started. My congratulations to the NYU Silver School of Social Work for this tremendous addition to its faculty.”
“Jennifer Jones Austin is a scholar and a practitioner with a track record of getting things done,” said Linda Lausell Bryant, NYU Silver Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Clinical Associate Professor, and former Associate Commissioner for the Office of Youth Development at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. “The addition of Jennifer as a Visiting Scholar is a significant step in helping us to train social work students to go into the field equipped for impact at the individual, family, community and societal levels.”
Ellen Schall, Senior Presidential Fellow at NYU and Martin Cherkasky Professor of Health Policy and Management at NYU Wagner said, “Jennifer Jones Austin is not only a leader in the pursuit of resources and justice for our city’s most under-resourced communities, but also is a treasured member of NYU’s alumni community. Her return to the university’s fold will enrich The Silver School’s education, policy and community engagement activities in immeasurable ways. I look forward to having her here at NYU.”
About NYU Silver
Founded in 1960 and renowned for a strong tradition of excellence in direct social work practice and dedication to social justice, NYU Silver has provided rigorous training to more than 20,000 social work practitioners and leaders in every area of the field, making it the leading destination for students who want to become innovative practitioners at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of social work practice.
Offering undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, the School serves as a major postgraduate training center for practicing social workers through its continuing education coursework and events, and offers master’s students intensive learning opportunities in family and children’s services, mental health, integrated health, substance misuse and co-occurring disorders, palliative and end-of-life care, restorative justice, and other innovative and emerging areas of social work. MSW students also have the opportunity to pursue global learning with NYU Silver programs in New York, Shanghai, and other cities around the world. NYU Silver has four campuses in the heart of New York City, Rockland County, Westchester County, and Shanghai.