Congratulations to the Murphy Institute’s Spring 2015 Tuition Scholarship recipients! Together, the Labor Studies and Urban Studies MA programs awarded scholarships to 15 students. Get to know some of these students below.
John Becker: “History has been a passion of mine since I was young. After 9/11, I felt compelled to read everything regarding the history of humanity. The fundamental question that emerges when one studies the legacy of human struggle, is: “what kind of people hold power and who are the oppressed?”
At first, my enthusiasm for studying labor was restricted to the United States, but soon I became equally curious about organized labor in the international arena. I felt that studying in Cairo, Egypt would be a good place to start. I also hoped to connect with a growing and vitally important labor movement, one that had a regional impact. Egypt had a huge influence on me, and continues to play a lingering role in my life.
When I came back to the States, I thought a lot about how I could be involved in the labor movement here. I then continued to build my experience by interning at Laborers’ Local 1001 in Chicago, which represents the city’s 1,900 municipal employees. This was my first experience in seeing union representation in practice. I spent the summer in Chicago alleyways talking to the garbage men and women on the issues that they faced. It even came to a point where I enjoyed the smell of the garbage because it symbolized to me hard-earned labor, working-class culture, and commitment for the public good!
Now I work for UPS as a part-time pre-loader. I believe this is an important job to have because it is the largest private union employer as well as the second largest private employer in the country. It is represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, perhaps the most powerful union in the United States. What happens at UPS affects the entire national economy. The 1997 UPS Strike proved this by putting almost half of the nation’s parcel deliveries to a halt, forcing UPS to capitulate to the union’s demands. As a rank and file union member, I feel CUNY Murphy is a good place for me to join in helping to rebuild the American labor movement. Solidifying a base is essential to growing the muscle of labor. I think the Murphy Institute is the place for me to focus further on a deeper and more academic understanding of the labor movement and find the potential for today’s labor movement.”
“My name is Agninshalah Collins. I have been an employee of the City of New York for the past decade. I am also affiliated with a nonprofit organization called (IAR) In Arms Reach INC, whose mission is to serve low-income, underprivileged youth, with a special focus on children of incarcerated parents. I am a Communications Specialist with 10+ years of experience in a variety of diverse fields. That experience includes nonprofit administration, public relations, crisis management, data analysis, and web development. I represent the interest of workers and fairness, and I am pro-labor. I am the Chapter Chair of the (PCT/SPCT) Police Communications Technicians and Supervising Police Communications Technicians. I am also a Delegate and Shop Steward. This title is significant to the degree that I am the union head of my chapter, overseeing about 1,500 employees whom I am currently organizing to be pro-active instead of re-active. My model is advocacy and organizing for a productive workforce. I am educating my members on union issues and how to advocate for themselves. I believe an educated workforce is an empowered workforce.
I appreciate a challenge. I am a parent who juggles a heavy work schedule, as well as a demanding academic one. My goal upon graduation from the Murphy Institute will be to obtain a career in city government as a Communications Director for the city or a nonprofit, to become a Communications Coordinator or Organizer within a union, or to become the Commissioner of a city agency. My skillset coupled with my education and experience make me a suitable and viable candidate for the titles listed above. I am scheduled to graduate the Cornell Labor Studies Institute with my certificate in Labor Studies in Spring 2015. The knowledge that I have earned through this certificate studies program has been phenomenal in preparing me for a job in the labor field. I decided to enroll in the Murphy Institute Urban Studies program because I felt this program would sharpen my analytical skills and deepen my knowledge of public administration. I am interested in contributing to future policy and want my life’s work to impact some of the greater issues of our times such as poverty, mass incarceration, the gender-pay gap, living wage, real affordable housing, sustainability, and education.”
Windy Jacques is a Youth Health Educator for the STAR (Safe Teen Acting Responsibly) program at Diaspora Community Services (DCS). She holds a BS in Human Services from New York City College of Technology and is a graduate student in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute and the School of Professional Studies, CUNY.
She writes: “As a STAR Youth Health Educator, I provide comprehensive sexual health education, pregnancy prevention and positive youth development activities to youth in many New York City partner high schools. Through the STAR Program I empower youth with the knowledge and encouragement to make informed decisions not only about their sexual/reproductive health but about their future goals and plans. I work closely with community partners to increases access to family planning and reproductive health services. I share my passion for community advocacy with the youth and I am helping inspire the next generation of community leaders. We do this by ensuring they have the best chance at graduating high school and going on to college or trade school all while making healthy life choices. My ability to engage the community through a culturally sensitive approach is one of my talents. I am able to raise awareness and educate through groups, workshops and community events.”
Sahar Khan: “I was born in Dubai but raised in New York City, Queens. Fired by my intellectual curiosity, college allowed me to explore the different fields of academics. While I was completing a major in Media Communications & Arts at City College of New York, it was crucial for me to link the world of politics to the humanities. Upon completing my Bachelors, I was accepted into the Union Semester Program and now I am completing my Masters in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute.
Recently, I was awarded a scholarship to participate in the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute (OI) National Organizers Workshop in Washington DC. In my Pakistani culture, women are only portrayed as daughters, sisters, wives, and then mothers. I do not mean to undermine the roles that women play in my society, but I want to have as many doors of opportunity opened for me as a man might have. I was determined to grow beyond the traditional roles that my culture laid out for me. I want to be a symbolic figure for all women. One step forward to my goal is the fight for every worker, their respect, dignity and justice.
Thandness Palmer: “My main motivation for seeking a Master’s Degree in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute is to improve my union local. I have been a member of Teamsters Local 804 since 2001. A large majority of Local 804 members are UPS employees. I am improving my understanding of labor at the Murphy Institute and making better decisions and arguments on behalf of my local at UPS. Studying at Murphy has also given me a vaster knowledge of labor in general. I now see labor as a significant issue not only here in the United States but across the globe.”
Paz Petersson: “Throughout undergrad, I developed a growing interest in labor rights as the nexus of the things I cared most about: global society, equalizing opportunities, and ensuring that people have access to the tools and resources they need to lead the lives they desire. I recognized from my studies of international development that entrenched inequality is at the root of many social problems, and I wanted to pursue a career to change this for the better. During internships at the Carbon Disclosure Project and Global Goods Partners Inter-religious Understanding, and in my current position at Human Rights Watch, I have gained a plethora of professional experience in how to effect positive change. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s work tracking environmental impact along major corporations’ supply chains triggered my focus on the challenges of ensuring social responsibility in the transnational production process. This question, of workers’ rights and workers’ happiness (and the many challenges that come along with trying to measure either) is one that I hope to research further in graduate school.
In my courses at the Institute, I am excited and challenged by the fact that many of my peers are active members of the U.S. labor movement. I was also challenged by the classroom environment, as I am most accustomed to scholars eager to discuss the theoretical, but with little life experience of their own to share. I found my peers at the Murphy Institute came from quite varied backgrounds, were involved in a local labor movement in some form, and possessed hands-on knowledge about subjects I had as-yet understood only theoretically.”
Marline Pierre: “Finishing my Master’s Degree in Labor Studies from the Murphy Institute will equip me with the knowledge and tools to pursue a career in social action/labor law and bring hope and justice to those individuals in unjust situations. My education has always been centered on learning how to better serve populations in underrepresented areas. I attended CUNY Baruch College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. I was also a Search for Elevation Education and Knowledge (SEEK) student within CUNY Baruch College. Because I believe in equality and justice for all employees in the workplace, my desire is to become more knowledgeable about those unions that already exist in New York State, and to learn about labor law and the importance of it in the workplace. As an employee, I have been privy to unfair working conditions for some workers. Obtaining a graduate education from the Murphy Institute is giving me a clear vision of the advantages of labor laws for all working people.”
Jessica Vanel: “My parents are Haitian immigrants who migrated to the United States in the 1970’s. My mother worked as a porter for a building in Manhattan and was a member of 32BJ for over 35 years. I can vividly remember when I was twelve years old and my mother came home and told the family she would be on strike. It lasted over a month. She had to march on those lines five days a week. As a young person in middle school, I conveyed strikes with picket lines, marches, posters, and banners. The result was swift and ended with the union winning fair labor rights.
I am older now and I don’t have a union at my job. In the past years, I felt uneasiness at work watching the abuse by supervisors/managers toward other employees. It made me feel uncomfortable because no one was there to speak up for employees on issues ranging from not learning a computer program fast enough, asking too many questions, or not moving fast enough. The CEO asked why I didn’t complain about underperforming workers. My answer surprised her: I stated that the issues at hand were minor and we needed to be patient with those workers who weren’t computer savvy. The result from numerous conversations was to have those employees work under my supervision. As soon as that happened, I sent the employees out for more training. Prior management approach had been to write up the individuals, give them demerits, or harass them. I found that intervening for these workers reminded me of my past experiences as the daughter of union members. This prompted me to study the labor movement, how employees began organizing, and what our rights are as workers.”