Welcome to the New Cohort of M.P.S. students in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights!

The Center for Global Workers’ Rights and the School of Labor and Employment Relations at Penn State are proud to welcome the seventh cohort of Masters of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) students in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Center for Global Workers’ Rights and the School of Labor and Employment Relations at Penn State are proud to welcome the seventh cohort of Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) students in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights!

The new cohort consists of nine students who bring a wealth of experience promoting labor rights across a range of geographic, industrial, and organizational contexts. The students hail from China, Colombia, Ghana, Liberia, Peru, the Philippines, Turkey, and the United States. In these countries, they work on labor rights initiatives in diverse sectors including palm oil, energy, welding, manufacturing, banking, and public services. They have experience in a variety of organizations such as labor unions, global union federations, labor rights NGOs, student movements, government agencies, social enterprises, transnational development agencies, and the International Labor Organization.

The M.P.S. program is designed for mid-career labor practitioners and worker organizers from across the world. Over the next two semesters, the students will complete coursework on a range of labor issues around the informal and formal economies, gender and race at work, corporate research and campaigns, international and comparative employment relations systems, and comparative organizing models. During summer 2021, students will have the opportunity to participate in an internship with a labor organization and complete a capstone research project. The program is part of the Global Labour University, a network of universities in five countries (Brazil, India, Germany, South Africa, and the U.S.), along with global union federations, national unions, and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the M.P.S. program into its first experiment in distance learning. All courses are being offered either in remote or hybrid formats, and travel restrictions have forced five of the eight students to start their studies from their home countries. Taking courses from abroad presents logistical and social hurdles, but students have displayed impressive resilience and creativity in the face of this challenge.

M.P.S. student Ángela María Herrera, who is studying from Bogotá, Colombia, says that she wishes she was able to spend time hanging out and bonding with her peers in person. Nonetheless, she has been surprised by the quality of online learning. “This is the first time that I have taken classes online,” she said. “I thought that the classes were going to be different and that, surely, I would not like them. But so far, they have been a pleasant surprise.  Both teachers and students have made every effort to make them dynamic.”

M.P.S. student Margaret Marfo, who is taking classes from her home in Cape Coast, Ghana says that studying from home presents some challenges, as she is still expected to contribute to her workplace, union, and family despite being a full-time student. “Nobody expects to hear, ‘I can’t make it,’” she said. “Because you are still in your home country.”

Like Herrera, Marfo was initially skeptical about online classes, but has grown to enjoy them. “The semester began with lots of questions and mixed feelings,” she said. “How would I cope? Would I be able to do this? How were virtual studies going to go? In the first week, I was overwhelmed by all the things I needed to grasp and learn, but now I am enjoying the thought-provoking readings. We are learning about gender and land rights, challenges and successes of South Korean unionism, and Ghana’s record of ILO supervisory systems. I truly look forward to the classes and learning ahead.”


Top row (from left): Margaret Marfo (M.P.S. student, Ghana), Jinyoung Park (Assistant Research Professor), Mark Anner (Professor), Marguerite Lehman (M.P.S. student, United States)

Middle row (from left): Carlo Tabia (M.P.S. student, The Philippines), Gonca Acaray (M.P.S. student, Turkey), Oliver Vanyanbah (M.P.S. student, Liberia), Saulo García Vidal (M.P.S. student, Peru)

Bottom row (from left): Jiayi Yuan (M.P.S. student, China), Ángela Herrera Puyana (M.P.S. student, Colombia)

October 5, 2020