SP2 Commencement Livestream
will be available Saturday, May 18th at 6:30 PM EST

News Details

SP2 announces Amber Hikes, MSW’08, as 2023 commencement speaker

Amber Hikes, MSW’08

Authored by: SP2

Student Life, Alumni


Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) announced today that SP2 graduate Amber Hikes, MSW’08, (they/she), current Deputy Executive Director for Strategy & Culture for the ACLU, will deliver the School’s 2023 Commencement speech on May 13. Learn more from today’s message from SP2 Dean Sara “Sally” S. Bachman, PhD.

Dear SP2 Community,

I am excited to announce that SP2 graduate Amber Hikes, MSW’08, (they/she) will deliver the School’s 2023 Commencement speech on May 13. In addition to being an accomplished SP2 alum, Hikes is a tireless advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion in all aspects of society.

Highlights of their career include serving in their current role as Deputy Executive Director for Strategy & Culture for the ACLU; becoming the ACLU’s first Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer; introducing the More Color, More Pride flag; releasing a Ted Talk that has gained more than 2 million views; serving as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs; and becoming the youngest Upward Bound director in the country, at Penn.

As an individual whose efforts have created awareness and positively effected social change within the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities, they are an ideal choice to address and inspire the next generation of leaders graduating from SP2 in 2023. Please read the bio below from the ACLU to learn more about Hikes’ accomplishments.

The SP2 Graduation Ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 13, 2023, at The Palestra at 6:30 p.m. ET. There will be an SP2 Pre-Ceremony Reception in the Caster Building Courtyard, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET. Please see the Commencement Schedule for more details.

All the best,


Sara S. Bachman, PhD


School of Social Policy & Practice

University of Pennsylvania

Amber Hikes (they/she) is a social justice advocate, community organizer, TED Talk Speaker, and unapologetically queer and Black. As  the ACLU’s Deputy Executive Director for Strategy & Culture, Amber serves as chief counselor and principal partner to the executive director, overseeing the critical functions of organizational strategic planning and programmatic priority setting. In this capacity, Amber also provides executive-level senior leadership and management oversight across the ACLU.

Previously, they served as the ACLU’s first Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, providing vision, leadership, and direction for the ACLU’s nationwide strategy to support equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) across all aspects of the organization’s work and efforts. Amber was both the internal and external ambassador on the importance of EDI as a crucial cornerstone of the ACLU’s culture of belonging.

In 2017, Amber introduced the world to the More Color, More Pride flag, launching a global conversation around anti-racism in the LGBTQ community. On the heels of this monumental work, Amber released a TED Talk helping all of us be better mentors, sponsors, and believers in collective liberation. With two million views, Amber’s TED Talk has built a network of intersectional accomplices changing the landscape of equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace.

Prior to joining the ACLU, Amber served as the executive director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs where they developed policy and served as the principal advisor to the mayor on issues that affect the LGBTQ community. At the mayor’s office, Amber set their sights on fighting and advocating for the most impacted populations within the LGBTQ community – specifically youth, elders, immigrants, transgender people, and people of color. In their time leading the office, Amber advocated for anti-discrimination legislation at the municipal level, passed one of the nation’s most trans-inclusive police policies and added black and brown stripes to the rainbow flag, prompting an international conversation about race and discrimination within the LGBTQ community.

A community organizer from an early age, Amber began a full-time career in education access advocacy — as the youngest Upward Bound director in the country — at the University of Pennsylvania. The moral compass of Amber’s work, intersectional inclusion, can be traced throughout her organizing and her work supporting and facilitating the pursuit of postsecondary education for youth of color experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Amber has been recognized nationally by OUT Magazine as “Community Organizer of the Year” in the 2018 OUT 100 and by Business Equality Pride as one of the 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40. Hikes earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and Psychology and English degrees from the University of Delaware.

Amber believes in employing an intersectional lens in all aspects of community work and leans daily on the words of sister Audre Lorde: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”