A long line of purple gowns and their entourage consumed the sidewalk around Radio City Music Hall. 644 soon-to-be graduates made their way in with friends and family for Tuesday evening’s Silver School of Social Work commencement ceremony.
Board of trustees member and alumna Constance McCatherin Silver opened the ceremonies and welcomed the graduates into the ranks of Silver alumnae. Silver then reminisced about her own commencement 38 years ago and said Silver graduates continue to be the best social workers in the world.
Interim Dean James Jaccard followed Silver and said he was extremely proud he was of his first and only graduating class. Jaccard remarked on the immense impact the students in the room will have on the communities they serve. He also thanked the graduating class, saying out of the many career paths they could follow, they chose social work. Jaccard said the choice to embark on such a difficult path was reflective of the strength of the students’ morals and those their families instilled in them.
On the behalf of President Andrew Hamilton and the university, Senior Vice Provost Cybele Raver thanked the graduates for exemplifying the NYU’s motto — “A private university in the public service.”
First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray delivered the keynote speech. She discussed the great work social workers have done for New York City both in the wake of tragedies such as 9/11 and in everyday life. Ending with congratulations on the behalf of the mayor and the city, she also encouraged the graduates to apply for a job with ThriveNYC’s Mental Health Service Corp, a program created in 2016 by McCray to increase access to mental health care in the city. McCray said she was looking to embed many more young social workers into high-need neighborhoods.
Following McCray’s speech, the student speeches all had themes of resisting the hatred of the current political environment and protecting and promoting the rights of marginalized communities. Doctoral graduate Melissa Bowman implored her classmates to continue standing up to the forces of hate, injustice and intolerance gaining ground in the country. Masters of Social Work Salutatorian Adriana Crystal Ruvalcaba ended her comments with, “P.S. Black Lives Matter and No ban, no wall” to thunderous applause.
After Bowman’s remarks, the doctoral students were each hooded by their advisors, causing a few advisors to tear up on stage. Following the doctoral students were the undergraduate students. Lastly, Associate Dean and Director of the Masters Program James Martin presented the 594 Masters of Social Work graduates. The first ever cohort from the Shanghai campus was among the masters graduates. Four young children also walked with their parents, with each receiving their own mock diploma from Dean Jaccard.
At the end of the night, the graduates spilled back onto the street, once again claiming the block as they posed for pictures and said their goodbyes.
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