By Janet Leslie
On Tuesday, February 28, 2017, the Murphy Institute hosted the Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor Spring 2017 Scholar Symposium. Michelle Akyempong, Vice President of Legislation & Political Action for District Council 37, Local 371 attended as this term’s special guest.
Since the inception of the Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship program, symposiums have been held at the start of each Fall and Spring term, allowing the program’s budding scholars to interact with practitioners, researchers and scholars in the fields of labor and urban studies.
To this end, we invite prominent members of these fields to join us for a roundtable talk, where they share reflections about their personal challenges and conquests on their educational and/or professional journeys. Past guests have included: Kitty Krupat, labor activist, organizer and associate director, emeritus JSMI; James Steele, labor studies adjunct faculty JSMI; and Ydanis Rodriguez, district 10 – NYC council member. We thank each of the past presenters who have truly inspired us to our better selves and willingly and generously shared their time with our scholars.
About Michelle Akyempong
Michelle began her career in 1985 as a Caseworker in Adult Protective Services in Brooklyn. Immediately prior to her election as Vice President in 2007, she was a Supervisor III at Home Care Services (CASA IV) in Staten Island. She has served as Alternate and Delegate on location, Delegate to DC 37 and a member of the Bargaining Committee. Michelle is a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), CBTU, the Women’s Committee, Black History and Caribbean Heritage Committees. Michelle is Chair of the Union’s Political Action Committee. She has been Vice President of Legislation & Political Action since 2007.
History of the JSMI Diversity Scholarship Program
In 2012, the Masters in Labor Studies program was launched at the JSMI. In response, then-Chancellor Matthew Goldstein awarded the Murphy Institute a five-year $500,000 matching grant to seed the Joseph S. Murphy Scholarships for Diversity in Union Leadership and Labor Studies. The first annual Diversity Scholarship fundraiser was held in 2013. Also, in 2013, JSMI launched the Bachelors in Urban and Community Studies program. A second successful fundraiser was held in 2014 and Diversity Scholars, Cohort One enrolled at JSMI during the Fall 2014 term. In 2014, for the first time, the JSMI Scholarship for Diversity in Labor was added to the list of The City University of New York’s Prestigious Scholarships.
All JSMI diversity scholarship recipients must register for either the Masters in Labor Studies (at the graduate level) or the Urban and Community Studies (at the undergraduate level) with a concentration in Labor Studies. Well-qualified awardees receive up to $30,000 for graduate study or up to $20,000 for undergraduate study.
History of the JSMI Diversity Scholarship Cohorts
A survey of prior and incumbent JSMI scholar awardees demonstrates that members of the first three cohorts are diverse by ethnicity, gender, heritage, national and international upbringing, civic engagement experience and social justice interest. Many are first-generation college students. They also include single parents. Most have strong familial ties and connections with deep roots in unionizing and community activism. To date there have been three cohorts.
The JSMI Diversity Scholars, Cohort One (2014) is composed of five Masters in Labor Studies graduate students, 100% of whom successfully completed their program pursuit.
In 2015, baccalaureate undergraduates in the Urban and Community Studies program joined in contention for the diversity scholarships for the first time. Cohort Two (2015), is composed of four-graduate and two-undergraduate students. As of this date, we expect five of these scholars to join in the commencement exercises at the end of the Spring 2017 term.
The most recent group to enroll with the support of the diversity scholarship funding is Cohort Three (2016), which is composed of four-graduate and one-undergraduate student. Each of these newly minted scholars is immersed in instruction and on-track toward completion of their program of study.
Cohort Four (2017) is to be selected by the JSMI Faculty Award Selection Committee on or before early May 2017, and we have no doubt that each awardee will be a stellar addition to the Murphy family. Cohort Four (2017) is to be honored and welcomed at an annual Scholarship for Diversity in Labor Awards & Reception, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 25, 6-8:00pm at the CUNY Graduate Center on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. In addition to honoring the incoming cohort of scholars, the Institute will recognize rising leaders in the field of labor studies and community activism. The rising leaders scheduled to be recognized at this year’s event are Kendall Fells, lead organizer for the Fight for $15 campaign, and Modesta Toribio for her work with Make the Road New York’s “Carwasheros” campaign.
The Murphy Institute is excited about the success and growth of the diversity scholarship program and humbled to be afforded an opportunity to provide our budding scholars instruction in the fields of labor and urban studies, developing and encouraging them as prospective union and community organizers for leadership in such an intentional manner. Although the diversity scholarship application period is closed for the 2017 period, our hope is that you will share information about the robust financial support available to exceptional scholar-students interested in immersing themselves in the study of labor and community studies and advise those with interest to contact the Murphy Institute when the 2018 award selection period opens.
Please direct inquires about the Joseph S. Murphy Scholarship for Diversity in Labor to Dr. Janet Leslie, Coordinator for the JSMI Scholarship for Diversity in Labor at janet<dot>leslie<at>cuny<dot>edu.