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John J. Sweeney Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Year at Ulster University in Northern Ireland

8/10/2017

Andrew Ulasich, a writer, activist, and special education teacher from Minneapolis, MN, has completed a year of study at Ulster University’s International Conflict Research Institute where he represented the American Labor movement as the second recipient of the John J. Sweeney Scholarship. Mr. Ulasich, a proud member of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals, Local 59, is finishing his dissertation and making plans to apply his education and experience at Ulster to movements seeking greater equity and justice in the US.

The scholarship, which was created by the HIT and the AFL-CIO in cooperation with the American Ireland Fund, fully supports one US student with a union connection to Ulster University’s masters program in Applied Peace at the International Conflict Research Institute. The scholarship honors the lifelong advocacy of John J. Sweeney, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, on behalf of working families worldwide and his contributions to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

“This has been a valuable year for me, not only to further my education, but to cultivate a vision and perspective of the kind of society I want to live in.” Mr. Ulasich said. “Northern Ireland is a great case study for peacebuilding due to the history of the recent violent conflict. There’s been a large investment in peacebuilding and a lot of organizations are working to build peace in a variety of ways.”

While studying in Northern Ireland, Mr. Ulasich gained insight into labor’s connections both to Ireland and the peace process in Northern Ireland, and also to how worker rights are a foundational component of peaceful societies.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have this scholarship and the opportunity to be here. John J. Sweeney made massive contributions to the labor movement and inspired a nationwide movement to support labor rights. To my mind, labor rights work for a more just society—an equitable society includes a livable wage, paid family medical leave, and safe working conditions without barriers to access.”

Mr. Ulasich recently met with HIT CEO Stephen Coyle while Mr. Coyle was at the Derry campus receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws from Ulster. Mr. Coyle, who was recognized for his economic regeneration and peacebuilding efforts in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, congratulated Andrew on his work in the program, where he was at the top of his class, and presented him with a copy of John Sweeney’s recently published memoirs, Looking Back, Moving Forward: My Life in the American Labor Movement. All proceeds from the sale of his memoirs, which can be purchased at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Looking-Back,-Moving-Forward1, are donated to the John J. Sweeney Scholarship.

For more information and to apply to the Sweeney scholarship, please visit: http://www.incore.ulster.ac.uk/courses/MSC/Scholarships/Sweeney