Who We Are

One of the founding programs of Empire State College, The Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies (HVASLS) serves approximately 1,700 students through partnerships with various labor unions in the New York City metro area. Its labor-centered, liberal arts program was inspired its namesake leader of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3 and the New York Central Labor Council. Van Arsdale was a major 20th century labor leader who promoted ongoing education for all union workers.  

He believed that the ability to think critically and to read and write at the college level are essential skills for all citizens of a modern democratic society. But especially for trade unionists. The Van Arsdale program is designed to ensure that trade unionists acquire the skills and knowledge required of them to be leaders at their work sites, in the their communities, and in their union.

In pursuit of this mission, highly qualified faculty with a demonstrated interest in labor and working-class studies, deliver a program that enables working adults to acquire the analytical and communicative skills that are the hallmark of a liberal arts education.  An equally committed professional and support staff provide students with a full range of academic and administrative services. 

The School of Labor Studies offers pathways to the following undergraduate degrees in Labor Studies: Associate of Arts; Associate of Science; Bachelor of Arts; Bachelor of Science. 

We offer convenient evening classes for working adults at our Hudson St. location, and at satellite locations and union halls around the city.

The HVASLS Degree Program provides each and every student, regardless of their prior learning or educational background, an opportunity to acquire these skills by reading a range of texts of proven interest to the general reader, talking about them in class, and completing specified writing projects, based upon their reading and discussions, under the expert guidance of experienced instructors.

The program emphasizes collective learning, student-faculty interaction and class discussion. HVASLS students learn to think, read and write at the college-level in a “hands on,” active fashion, with their instructors functioning as “learning coaches,” who foster their students’ active engagement with the issues and arguments in the required texts and offer guidance about how they can most effectively communicate their own views or tell their own story.