IAM Members Getting Union-Made Degrees at Winpisinger Center

IAM members listen closely during a general education cohort for the ESC/IAM Partnership Program at the William W. Winpisinger Education Center. From left: Robert Breaux, Communicator/Educator, Local 850, Oklahoma City, OK; Joan Cox, President, Local 350, La Grange, NC; Frances Finau-Stepp, Local 1782, San Jose, CA; Gurjinder Singh Grewal, Chief Steward, Local 16, British Columbia, Canada.

Members from nearly every sector of the IAM descended on the William W. Winpisinger Education & Technology Center in Hollywood, MD as part of two undergraduate cohorts of the Empire State College/IAM Partnership Program. They are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in labor studies.

U.S. and Canadian members representing transportation, aerospace, headquarters, and several geographic territories participated in the week-long program followed by a semester of individual and group assignments. All courses are completed primarily online, with limited sessions at the WWW Center.

“Achieving a bachelor’s degree has always been a dream of mine, but it wasn’t possible because of family responsibilities,” said Norma Ramirez, a Shop Steward and President of IAM Local 2198 at Southwest Airlines in Houston. “Now, because of this partnership, I am able to become a role model for my children.”

Students are taking classes in a wide array of subjects, including Labor by the Numbers, Public Art as a Social Practice, U.S. History, Social Progress, and Writing for Labor.

“It’s an eye opener to learn of the magnitude which labor and minorities had in the political reformation of the United States and in the building of the nation,” said Gurjinder Singh Grewal, an IAM Local 16 Chief Shop Steward from British Columbia, Canada. “As union leaders we want to do the best possible job. That’s achieved when we add formal education to benefit our personal growth and that of our membership.”

“Like I tell all the students enrolled in the program, no matter how busy life gets, don’t put down your tools, stay focused on the task at hand,” said Winpisinger Center Director Chris Wagoner.

That advice was taken to heart by the first cohort group enrolled in the program, with 100 percent of registered port-of-entry students returning for the general education week.

“People learn best when they are happy, respected, focused and safe,” said Dr. Michael Merrill, Dean of Empire State College’s Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. Center for Labor Studies. “The Winpisinger Center is an ideal location for any educational program because students who come here are enabled to be all of these things. The support given to this program by the IAM officers and staff, and the dedication and desire of the members, who are our students, make the partnership with the union, from the standpoint of the SUNY Empire State College faculty and staff, very special, indeed.”

The ESC/IAM Partnership Program returns with three groups June 19-24, including a new cohort Port of Entry class and the first Master’s degree cohort.

To sign up for any of the SUNY ESC/IAM Partnership programs, contact IAM Education Representative Rhonda Rogers at 301-373-8819 or rrogers@iamaw.org. For more information, visit www.esc.edu/partnership-programs/iam-partnership.