Students Seek to Leverage Activism Into Post-Grad Jobs

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Alejandro Lara-Briseno will graduate from UC Berkeley this Sunday with a degree in peace and conflict studies, but his last days as a student will be unusual ones.

He has not eaten since May 3 as part of a hunger strike demanding campus condemnation of the Arizona immigration bill.

Lara-Briseno and other student-activists are continuing a long UC Berkeley tradition dating back to the 1960s and continuing through the recent protests that have rocked the University of California system. But even when the student-activists graduate and are no longer students, many say they will or have continued to uphold the spirit of activism in their professional lives.

Chris Schildt, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2005 with a double major in political science and peace and conflict studies, became involved in campus activism during the anti-war effort that sprung up in response to the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Schildt said her experience organizing students in the weeks leading up to the war provided valuable skills that she has continued to use.

For the past three years, Schildt has worked as a community planner for TransForm, a Oakland nonprofit that promotes sustainable public transit. She now plans to earn a master's degree in city planning from UC Berkeley.

"The most important thing my activism on campus did for me was giving me the confidence in my own voice, giving me those essential real world critical thinking skills and giving me the power to affect real change," she said. "When I was going in for my fist interviews after college, I was very familiar with issues a lot of the non prof its were grappling with."

She said her work educating community members on the potential impacts of city bureaucracy is an extension of the organizing she did at UC Berkeley.

Though she was concerned that organizing and participating in mass sit-ins in the streets of downtown San Francisco during anti-war protests would hinder her when looking for jobs after college, Schildt said that the experience was worth it.

"It did occur to me at the time and my parents were very concerned in particular that somehow my activism would lead to me getting arrested and a given a police record," she said. "I think the lessons I learned and the confidence it gave me were far more valuable and important than any potential risks."

Lara-Briseno, who is graduating with a 3.99 grade point average in his major, says he, too, will continue his activism after he leaves UC Berkeley for an interdisciplinary studies degree in graduate school.

"If there is a social justice issue out there, I will pursue it," he said.


Contact Javier Panzar at [email protected]

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