by Kiiru Gichuru
The master’s program at Brooklyn College’s Graduate Center for Worker Education helped this Kenyan immigrant to achieve his dream of a career in the law. In 2006, I enrolled in the program with a vague but idealistic notion that I wanted to find my role in changing the world. Thanks to this program I am now a recent law school graduate pursuing a career in labor law and labor advocacy.
The Graduate Center for Worker Education made it possible for me to continue my education while serving as the Vice-President of my union, Local 1904.Its curriculum exposed me to different facets of policy ranging from domestic issues to foreign affairs. The program sharpened my instincts and gave me insight in how the policy process actually works and on how institutions and individuals relate to one another both on the domestic and international arenas.
That strong background in policy allowed me to better understand how critical the law is in shaping policy that affects the lives of people. The Graduate Center for Worker Education equipped me with the skills necessary to understand the nuances and practices of urban policy and public administration.
The program also trained me to be a broad-based analyst through complementary readings in International Organization, Political Development, Political and Administrative Problems in Newly Developed States, the U.S. Party System, and Policy Formulation in U.S. Government.
Committed to a legal career as a labor advocate and eventually politics, the Center for Worker Education is responsible for shaping many of my political views today. My experience at the Graduate Center for Worker Education underscores the theme of my law school commencement speech, Ubuntu, an African word that embraces togetherness and encourages people to work together for the common good. For me, the Graduate Center for Worker Education represents more than an institution for higher learning, but a family of students, professors, and staff dedicated to improving the world we live in. Ubuntu!!!!
by Sharitza Lopez-Rodriguez
As a migrant from Puerto Rico and the first person in my family to graduate from college and to pursue a professional degree, my academic success has been life changing. But it was by no means a guarantee. As a full-time worker and single mother of a then 3-year-old, I had to make a careful decision of where I wanted to continue my academic endeavors. Accommodating my schedule, availability of support services and location were as important as program quality. As an undergrad, I heard great things about the faculty, program dynamic, courses and academic enrichment that the Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education offered. I applied to enroll for the fall 2011 in the M.A, program in Political Science with a concentration in Urban Policy and Administration.
By the end of my first semester I knew I had made the right decision. I was academically challenged and looked forward to my classes even after a long day of work. Though we met in the evening, the Graduate Center for Worker Education was still a campus where we could talk to faculty, a computer lab and the opportunity to interact with fellow students.
That all changed in my second semester during a “transition” that interrupted the program’s functions. The Center felt abandoned. No one was left whom we could see for advisement and registration. Class offerings were drastically reduced. These changes were made without regard for the effect on the students.
Many of the students in this master’s program were “non-traditional” like me: many women and people of color, working full-time, often caring for children, struggling to earn a graduate degree, The Master’s program at the Graduate Center for Worker education gave a diverse student body of workers with family responsibilities access to higher education. For me, that meant an opportunity for advancement in my career and upward mobility for me and my son.
As a graduate of the Graduate Center for Worker Education at Brooklyn College in June 2013 who will start law school in the fall, I cannot celebrate my achievement knowing that others who follow will not have the benefit of the supportive environment once offered at the Graduate Center for Worker Education at Brooklyn College. That is why I am adding my voice in calling for its restoration.