New York University: Bringing Data Science to Social Work

The Silver School of Social Work at New York University has received a visionary $16 million gift from Dr. Constance and Martin Silver to harness the emerging power of big data to identify the root causes of society’s most pressing challenges and achieve broad and transformational social impact. The gift secures a place for NYU Silver School of Social Work and the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at the forefront of leveraging data science and artificial intelligence (A.I.) in social work research, education, and impact.

One of the largest cash gifts ever given to a school of social work, the combined gift is multi-dimensional. It provides $5 million to the NYU McSilver Institute to establish an Artificial Intelligence Hub. This groundbreaking hub will be used to address poverty and challenges related to race and public health equitably.

Of equal importance, the gift will help NYU Silver and the social work profession at-large develop evidence-informed “smart” interventions to equitably tackle some of society’s most urgent problems, among them family violence, impediments to health and mental health care, and mass incarceration. The gift funds the creation, at NYU Silver, of a Center on Data Science and Social Equity as well as an Endowed Professorship in Data Science and Prevention.

Dr. Constance (Connie) McCatherin Silver is a psychoanalyst, social worker, educator, philanthropist, and artist. Her husband, Martin Silver, is a business leader and founder of Life Resources/DCI Biologicals, an innovative plasma collection company.

NYU President Andrew Hamilton said, “We are living through an era when the compassionate, critical lens of the social work professional is more necessary than ever to address urgent social problems and inequities. The challenges gripping the world have rarely been as intense, and with them the appetite for transformational solutions. Connie and Marty’s generous and visionary gift comes, therefore, at exactly the appropriate moment, when enormous advances in data science offer NYU Silver and the social work field new tools for understanding the causes of racism and poverty and the broadest and most enduring remedies. It advances a new dimension in social work education and research, one allowing their namesake school to continue to generate knowledge, innovation, and social impact for years to come.”

Michael A. Lindsey, Executive Director of NYU McSilver, and Constance and Martin Silver Professor of Poverty Studies at NYU Silver, said, “Artificial intelligence holds promise for innovations leading to the development of novel interventions that improve health, education and well-being for poverty-impacted and marginalized communities. This technology also has the potential to perpetuate long-standing inequities, if we are not careful. Therefore, the work of the A.I. Hub at McSilver will be to lead cross-disciplinary research, intervention development, policy advocacy, and public conversations for using A.I. to improve lives equitably.”

Neil Guterman, Dean of NYU Silver and Paulette Goddard Professor, said, “Connie and Marty’s $50 million naming gift in 2007 had a transformative effect on the school and social work education broadly. With this additional significant donation, the school and the profession have an unprecedented opportunity to tap into the rapidly progressing field of data science to advance social equity and tackle social problems. I am immensely grateful for Connie and Marty’s continued generosity, leadership, vision, and confidence in the school.”

“This gift positions NYU Silver and the McSilver Institute for leadership in leveraging data science and A.I. to design efficient, high-impact interventions that tackle urgent challenges and inequities and can be disseminated at wide scale,” said Martin Silver. Added Connie Silver, “Social workers have a pivotal role to play in addressing society’s most intractable problems, and this gift aims to support innovative and visionary work within the profession for years to come.”

The $16 million donation will be applied across three interrelated, high-impact initiatives as follows:

· Constance and Martin Silver Center on Data Science and Social Equity:

The establishment of the Constance and Martin Silver Center on Data Science and Social Equity will support NYU Silver scholars conducting work in data science for social equity impact and in studies harnessing big data. In order to leverage the growing availability and complexity of such data, the Center will help develop and nurture the scientific skill set of Silver faculty, doctoral students, and researchers. The Center’s inaugural director will be Silver’s Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Marya Gwadz, a leading scholar whose work is centered on the development and evaluation of potent, innovative, and culturally salient social/behavioral interventions to address racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender inequity in health. Commenting on the Silver gift, Professor Gwadz said, “The Silver Center will play a pivotal role in enhancing, expanding, and elevating aspects of data science-related research carried out by Silver faculty and researchers, and support us in incorporating novel and emerging approaches into our scholarship. The creation of the Center will provide us with the opportunity to integrate data science at a whole new level for maximum innovation and social impact.”

· The A.I. Hub at NYU McSilver:

NYU McSilver will receive $5 million for the establishment of the A.I. Hub under the leadership of the Institute’s Executive Director Michael A. Lindsey, who is the Constance and Martin Silver Professor of Poverty Studies, and a renowned scholar in the fields of child and adolescent mental health. The Hub will lead the conversation about the implications of artificial intelligence-driven systems and advance policy solutions to address inequities. It will leverage the Institute’s national visibility and influence on issues such as youth suicide and mental health, poverty and racial disparities. The Hub will also help to advance NYU’s leadership in the use of A.I. to tackle complex social problems, aligning with the university’s Strategies to Reduce Inequality initiative.

· Constance and Martin Silver Endowed Professorship in Data Science and Prevention:

A new Constance and Martin Silver Professorship in Data Science and Prevention will enable NYU Silver to attract and support a world-class scholar in the emerging fields of big data, prediction and prevention sciences, and A.I., expanding the School’s growing scientific leadership in advancing these fields. This scholar will benefit from the newly established Center on Data Science and Social Equity and the related activities of the McSilver A.I. Hub.

About Constance and Martin Silver:
Dr. Constance (Connie) McCatherin Silver is a psychoanalyst, acclaimed social worker, educator, philanthropist and extraordinary artist. Throughout her life, Dr. Silver has shown fierce dedication and courage as a champion in the fight against inequality. Working together with her husband Martin, Dr. Silver has helped to transform the field of social work, setting the highest bar as a philanthropist committed to social change and bettering the lives of all people.

In 2007, Dr. Silver’s vision of disrupting generational poverty led to the founding of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. It is her spirit and values that continue to guide the McSilver Institute’s work. Dr. Silver is a member of the NYU Board of Trustees and she has served as a lecturer at NYU for many years. Her artwork can be found in private and corporate collections. She earned a BS degree in social work in 1978 and an MSW in 1979 from NYU Silver. She also received a PhD from the Union Institute and University in 1983.

Martin Silver is a business leader who in 1973 founded Life Resources/DCI Biologicals, the first independent plasma collection company to change from a manual collection system to an automated separation system. He served as its Chief Executive Officer and President until the business was sold to the United Kingdom’s Department of Health in 2002. This was a historical event as it was the first time that the British government had purchased a private company outside of the United Kingdom. Mr. Silver was retained as the President and Chief Executive Officer of DCI Biologicals until 2006 and served on the board of DCI Management until 2011.

Martin Silver received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from NYU Stern (then known as the School of Commerce). His philanthropy reflects his commitment to investing in innovation and advancements that address society’s most pressing issues.

About NYU Silver:
NYU Silver School of Social Work is a premier locus for research and education of professional social workers, 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.

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 19,000 social work practitioners and leaders in every area of the field. The School’s faculty are on the leading edge of scholarly research and address society’s most intractable problems with a focus on proactive approaches and preventive interventions that transform lives.