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Celebration, Resolve at
Last NLC Graduation

 

June 11, 2014


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National Labor College President Paula E. Peinovich addresses graduates at the 2014 NLC graduation ceremony at the Kirkland Center in Silver Spring, Md.

Two hundred and ten graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas from the National Labor College at the end of this spring semester. It was the institution’s largest graduating class, and also its last.

 

“This will be a chance to celebrate all that the college has accomplished over the years as well as provide an opportunity for our whole community to come together and say goodbye to the campus,” the website’s blog announced.  

Since the decision to close, the website’s blog became an electronic meeting place where students and alumni could come together to express concern for the closing, as well as appreciation for the education they received at the tight-knit, specialized labor college.

“This institution represents a lot more than labor students represented by labor unions. It represents a way of life in America,” wrote one alumnus.

Funded by the AFL-CIO, the NLC provided a subsidized education to AFL-CIO union members and their families to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees on subjects such as business administration, labor safety, and union leadership and administration. The institution was known for its emphasis on life experience and real-world application of skills, preparing students with on-the-job practice and senior projects that directly relate to their chosen studies and involve a high level of research.  

Jim “Junior” Long Jr., a 2014 graduate who double majored in union leadership and administration and political economy of labor, says, “I didn’t understand why the middle class keeps on getting hammered – benefits taken away all the way down to not getting paid minimum wages – now I understand what needs to be done.” Motivated by the seeing firsthand the effects of the recession, he explains, “I invested in myself to help others.”

Like many of his fellow graduates, Long took an extra course load in his final semester in an effort to race against the impending closure.

“The college is virtually the only institution [entirely devoted to] labor studies – everything from history to organizing techniques to collective bargaining – at its center,” wrote Kim Patterson of People’s World. “Over the years, thousands of unionists came to the college to study those fields and others, from labor's point of view.”

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IBEW graduates at the 2014 NLC graduation ceremony at the Kirkland Center in Silver Spring, Md.

In the 17 years since its independent accreditation, hundreds of IBEW members have graduated from the program, with 36 IBEW members graduating in this year’s class alone. Students who have not yet completed their programs at the NLC will be able to complete them through “teach out” programs at Empire State College, Thomas Edison State College, Penn State, University of Illinois, and Rowan University. These colleges are also accepting applicants independent of the NLC for their undergraduate programs.

“Please be assured that in all of our proposals, we are keeping the best interests of our students in our hearts and minds,” wrote college president Paula E. Peinovich in a statement regarding the closure. “National Labor College is proud of our students, our work, and our many successes.”

The academic programs offered at the NLC have provided many leaders within the labor movement with skills and knowledge since its original formation as the George Meany Center in 1969. While there are colleges with courses in labor studies, it was the offering of subsidized higher education to union members that made the NLC so pivotal to the labor movement.

The AFL-CIO is working with former NLC staff to offer week-long classes teaching basic union skills building. They will offer intensive courses in union administration, bargaining, organizing, arbitration, and communications, said Al Davidoff, AFL-CIO’s director of governance, organization, and leadership development.

IBEW Education Department Director Amanda Pacheco said members can still take advantage of resources both outside and within the IBEW for further education. “It’s important that we continue to support them,” Pacheco said.

Both the University of Wisconsin and the University of Oregon offer full-time undergraduate programs, and have partnered with the IBEW to provide week-long intensive courses to members on organizing and arbitration.

Long, for one, is pursuing an MBA in business administration at Webster University in St. Louis.

“Brothers and sisters, the working people of this country will take America back,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, in his address to the NLC graduates. “We will rebuild the American Dream. There aren’t any shortcuts or easy answers. We’ll do it the hard way, which is also the right way. And we will need each other to do it. Your role is important. And so I ask you, in your own way, by your own lights, to go forward from here to turn your dreams into reality and to be the best union members, the best leaders and the best people you can be.”

Of all of the unions represented among this year’s NLC graduates, the IBEW was the largest.

The following members received Bachelor of Arts degrees:

James Patrick Allen

Local 11

Los Angeles

Labor Safety & Health

Erik W. Bade

Local 159

Madison, Wis.

Labor Education

Kathleen A. Barber

Local 617

San Mateo, Calif.

Construction Management

Gary A. Beckstrand

Local 354

Salt Lake City

Labor Education

John F. Bourne

Local 22

Omaha, Neb.

Business Administration

Paul S. Brenstrom

Local 145

Rock Island, Ill.

Construction Management

Shannon N. Clanton

Local 558

Sheffield, Ala.

Construction Management

Christopher L. Comb

Local 725

Terre Haute, Ind.

Construction Management

John J. Dickinson IV

Local 236

Albany, N.Y.

Construction Management

Zachary Esquibel

Local 68

Denver

Business Administration

Aaron G. Gerding

Local 26

Washington

Labor Safety & Health

Paul A. Hahn

Local 26

Washington

Business Administration

Brandi P. Harmon

Local 2113

Tullahoma, Tenn.

Business Administration

Marion A. Hill

Local 369

Louisville,Ky.

Construction Management

Jeremy P. Hodges

Local 305

Fort Wayne, Ind.

Labor Safety & Health

Robbie D. Joiner

Local 347

Des Moines, Iowa

Construction Management

Julius G. Kigondu

Local 26

Washington

Construction Management

Kevin N. Klinghammer

Local 146

Decatur, Ill.

Construction Management

Robert D. Komec

Local 1920

North Platte, Nev.

Business Administration

James R. Long, Jr.

Local 4

St. Louis

Union Leadership & Admin., Political Economy of Labor

Cory V. McCray

Local 24

Baltimore

Business Administration

Terrance L. McKinch

Local 948

Flint, Mich.

Labor Safety & Health

Gary E. Mitchell

Local 369

Louisville, Ky.

Labor Safety & Health

Frank D. Muia

Local 236

Albany, N.Y.

Labor Studies

Christopher E. Parsels

Local 108

Tampa, Fla.

Union Leadership & Admin.

Enochius H. Rhymes

Local 480

Jackson, Miss.

Business Administration

Marty L. Riesburg

Local 22

Omaha, Neb.

Business Administration

Adam B. Sayer

Local 650

Salt Lake City

Construction Management

Brooks C. Slater

Local 24

Baltimore

Construction Management

Chad E. Smith

Local 1912

Southern Pines, N.C.

Business Administration

Anna R. Sykes

 

 

Business Administration

Tina L. Tyler

Local 824

Tampa, Fla.

Labor Studies

Christian J. Wagner

Local 520

Austin, Texas

Business Administration

Justin B. Young

Local 252

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Construction Management

Jayson H. Zimmerman

Local 3

New York City

Construction Management

                                                     

 

The following member received a Bachelor of Science degree:

 

 

Elizabeth J. Fox

Local 3

New York City

Emergency Readiness & Response Management

 

Photos by Bill Burke Photography, used with permission from the NLC Flickr account.

 



 

 

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