Students get involved early at UMass Dartmouth’s Labor Education Center

Sep 5, 2023

New graduate students at UMass Dartmouth are just getting introduced to the community, but a few students are already thinking about getting that community organized. 

UMass Dartmouth’s Labor Education Center reaches out to incoming students every year, just before classes begin, to get them involved in the center's work. In past years, that outreach has taken the form of a trial work period with community organizations. 

This year, the center took a more informal approach, and tried to introduce interested students directly to people working locally in social and economic justice. The “Summer of Solidarity” is meant to increase awareness about the labor education center and brainstorm ideas for events and programs over the semester, said labor educator Camilo Viveiros, as students often don’t find out about some opportunities in the center until after they graduate. 

“I feel like sometimes I’m really nitty gritty connecting students to community groups, so this is fun to have something a little more informal,” Viveiros said. “What I’m most passionate about really is listening to students.”

Second-year graduate student Emily King, who’s studying research psychology, wants to get involved with the center because she’s interested in disability justice and neurodiversity. 

“I definitely want to learn more about people around me and the world around me,” King said. “And I just really want to do something more than just myself. One person can make a difference as long as they’re coming together for a common cause.”

King said she and Viveiros have already talked about putting together an event to get the disabled community on campus more involved. 

First-year law student Wyatt Spangler has already gotten involved with a labor education center effort, the Workers Education Program in New Bedford, which brings education classes to immigrant workers. 

Spangler said that volunteer experience taught him how impactful local, community efforts can be, and that he needs to learn Spanish and brush up on his Portuguese. 

“I think that getting involved in the labor movement at a grass roots level is really important to pursuing meaningful justice, transformative justice,” Spangler said. “This is a microcosm of a broader movement that we’re actively trying to be a part of.”

First-year law students Jake Alexander Molina and Sam Deer said that even being at an organized labor event through the university was somewhat jarring coming from Texas and Florida, respectively. 

“It’s kind of a big culture shock to have any sort of labor organization,” Deer said. “This kind of cookout that’s organized around labor is incomprehensible [in Florida].”

The Labor Education Center will continue to host events throughout the fall semester, and hopes to organize an event based around community justice soon. 

“Opportunities for meaningful engagement don’t have to be [big],” Spangler said. “I don’t have to go to the Supreme Court to make a difference.”