Jumping in with Both Feet

Susan Brown



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UMass Boston was said to be the Harvard for poor people. I was thrilled and intimidated all at the same time. I entered UMass Boston in September of 1968.

I recall my first English course and how surprised I was that I was able to handle the work and was even told by the instructor that I had better writing skills that most of the class. So I took more courses and eventually matriculated.

During the late sixties and early seventies there were many cultural and political issues to get involved with and I jumped in with both feet.

I became a member of the Social Relations Coalition, a student organization, and eventually the first woman president. I moved out of my dad’s house to live in Cambridge in a women’s commune with other female students. We all concerned ourselves with the many issues of the time.

Due to financial circumstances, I left my student status behind in early 1974 and became a full-time employee of the university. In my first year of employment I became a union activist and remained one for 25 of my 37 plus years of employment. I brought the leadership skills I learned as a student activist to my union responsibilities and was soon filing grievances, holding meetings and apprising my colleagues of their rights under the union contract and federal and state law.

After many years of not taking courses, I finished my degree and graduated in 1999 with a BA in labor studies and a major in workplace advocacy.

My years at UMass Boston as a student, student activist, employee and union leader have taught me much about the importance of resolving conflicts, fairness, goodwill, compromise, patience, acceptance, loyalty, love and kindness.

I’m a proud and grateful alum and retiree. UMass Boston is a very special place and has given me much.