June 15, 2012

SUNY Empire State College Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies to Host Annual Graduation Ceremony

2012 Edition of “Labor Writes” now available online

(NEW YORK CITY – June 15, 2012) – Union officers, members, apprentices from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 3, as well as apprentices from the United Association of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 1 and public school classroom paraprofessionals, members of the United Federation of Teachers will graduate at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 15 at Alfred Lerner Hall, on the Columbia University campus at the annual graduation ceremony for  SUNY Empire State College’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies.

This year’s commencement address will be given by General Secretary-Treasurer of the United Association of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Mark McManus.

In his commencement address, McManus offers advice and experience to the graduates, "As you begin your career as a United Association journeyman, remember that in the years ahead, you will be doing more than just earning a paycheck -- much more. You are about to embark on a lifelong journey that will provide you with good wages, benefits and, when you are ready, a secure pension. But if there is one thing that you remember today, it's that your UA career, for that's what it is, will only be as successful as you make it. Never stop learning. Never stop training. Never stop trying to be better at your chosen trade. If you do that, nothing can stop you ... and the UA will be beside you every step of the way."

“This year's class is probably the most diverse, both organizationally and ethnically, in the history of the center,” said Michael Merrill, dean of the Center for Labor Studies. “We are very proud of all of our students, and of our trade union partners, who give so generously to ensure a better future, not just for their members, but for all of us.”

Both union locals require, and pay for, apprentices to earn an associate degree through Empire State College in order to better prepare them for participation in the many facets of organized labor and the construction trades.

The college also will award 24 associate and bachelor’s degrees to members of the United Federation of Teachers Paraprofessionals Division. The UFT paraprofessionals receive tuition and fees for up to 6 credits each semester as a negotiated benefit. This is the largest class of paraprofessionals in the history of the Center for Labor Studies and reflects a new emphasis on degree attainment on the part of the college and the UFT.

Shelvy Young-Abrams, chair of the UFT Paraprofessionals Chapter, said, “Our members are always seeking opportunities to enhance their skills and expand their knowledge in order to better educate children and advance their careers. Programs like this one go far to help them achieve those goals, and we view them as an investment in education that will benefit our members and the children they serve for years to come.”

The 2012 edition of Labor Writes, ‌the annual magazine of the college’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies, is now available online and is published to coincide with graduation. Labor Writes highlights the artistic creations of the apprentices of Local No. 3 and Local No. 1.

The magazine is designed to showcase the experience and ability of apprentices in these fields. More importantly, Labor Writes serves to better tell labor’s story to a wider audience through the students.

One of the primary purposes of SUNY Empire State College’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies is to inform the wider public about the labor movement.

By the numbers, degrees earned through the Center for Labor Studies:

  • Local No. 1 associate degrees: 35
  • Local No. 3 associate degrees: 274
  • Local No. 3 bachelor's degrees: 24
  • UFT Paraprofessionals associate degrees: 24
  • UFT Paraprofessionals bachelor’s degree: 1

The number of bachelor’s degrees includes general membership of Local No. 3, not just apprentices, 11 of whom earned degrees this year. In addition, two members of Local No. 3, District Council of Carpenters, earned an associate and bachelor’s degree.

More than 7,600 have earned a degree or certificate from the Center for Labor Studies since the college’s founding 41 years ago including nearly 5,900 members of IBEW’s Local No. 3 who have earned an associate degree.

Earning an associate degree is an explicit part of the requirements for an apprentice in Local No. 3 and Local No. 1. Apprentices also can earn a bachelor’s degree . Both degrees are designed to meet the needs of the union and the worker.

About the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies

The college has had a special relationship with the labor movement from its inception, and the Center for Labor Studies, formed in 1971, the year the college was founded, was a product of that relationship.

Renamed in 1986 to honor Harry Van Arsdale Jr., who was instrumental in its creation, the center’s purpose always has been to provide trade unionists and other wage-earning adults access to a college education in a learning environment that celebrates and builds on their experience and achievements.

Labor studies students are largely union members, staff or officers, as well as human resource professionals, managers and those with an interest in labor/management relations in both the public and the private sectors. The emerging sub-field of “working-class studies” also has drawn increasing numbers of students interested in the working-class experience, broadly defined, and in the popular arts.

Graduates include Denis Hughes, past president of the New York state AFL-CIO; the late Edward Malloy, past president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council; and Morton Bahr, president emeritus of the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

Members of New York City’s industrial, building and construction trades, service and public employees’ unions all have attended the center’s programs. These include:

AFSCME District Council 37
Allied Printing and Trades Council
American Federation of Musicians
American Postal Workers Union
Civil Service Employees Association (AFSCME)
Communications Workers of America
International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees
International Brotherhood of Carpenters
International Union of Operating Engineers
National Association of Letter Carriers
Police Benevolent Association
Service Employees International Union
Sheet Metal Workers Union of America
United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters
United Federation of Teachers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

Onsite and Online Options

Undergraduates can plan degrees in labor studies through the college’s Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies, located at 325 Hudson St., which includes one-to-one work with a faculty mentor and group study, or flexible online learning through the Center for Distance Learning.

The Master of Arts in Labor and Policy Studies is designed for unionists, human resource professionals, arbitrators, educators, journalists, political activists, lawyers and those involved in government for private industry. The primary concentration for this program is on current problems and policies generated by changes in the global economy, technology, the workforce and the workplace. This degree is only offered through the college’s School for Graduate Studies and requires a combination of online study, weekend residencies and one-to-one work with a faculty mentor.

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout her or his college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose.

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 63,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

Additional information about the college is available here.


Media Contact

David M. Henahan, Director of Communications
518-587-2100, ext. 2918

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