Matthew Hanson: Comparative Social Movements

Matthew Hanson

Comparative Social Movements

B.A., June 2010 Magna cum Laude

Ursula Taylor Memorial Award for Community Service

AmeriCorps Eli Segal Education Award

City Works Foundation Labor Studies Scholarship

Hunter College Welfare Scholarship

Dean’s List

As a high school junior, when other students were talking about attending college, Matthew Hanson’s mind was focused on something else: joining AmeriCorps. The idea of devoting a year or more to serving underprivileged communities was a natural outcome of his life as a social justice activist; he had already spent his time organizing gay-straight alliances and anti-war organizations and volunteering to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He served in AmeriCorps for two years and one of the most important things he learned came unexpectedly: that to solve the problems and challenges of local and global communities one had to address the root causes of the issues, not just treat the symptoms. After AmeriCorps, he went on to work and intern at a number of social justice organizations, such as Young Heroes, Change to Win, ServeNext and the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. In 2007, he was ready to return to college with the goal of studying peace, conflict and social movements.

In CUNY Baccalaureate, under the guidance of Professor Charles Tien, Political Science, Hunter College, Hanson took courses in history, labor studies, Latin American studies, political science, and women and gender studies at Hunter College, CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and the CUNY Graduate Center. He studied abroad at the Chinese Foreign Affairs University in Beijing as well Hampshire College’s Institute for Central American Development Studies in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Nicaragua provided Hanson with the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with social movements outside of the United States while improving his Spanish. After returning to the U.S. he continued his involvement in the labor movement by enrolling in the Union Semester program offered by CUNY’s Murphy Institute.

The complexity of social movements is something Hanson has continued to explore, investigating: community coalitions and membership development while working at the New York State Nurses Association; political organizing and electoral lobbying at SEIU 32BJ; and civic participation through the Malcolm X Debate Program at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility. Drawing on his professional and academic experiences Hanson is currently completing a thesis on the critical role of youth participation in revitalizing stagnate social movements. After graduation Hanson will spend his summer in Mexico City with the P.O.D.E.R. project working to exert community influence and increase corporate accountability in Latin America.

Hanson says “As a Comparative Social Movements major I study how and why people come together to create change; as a labor and social justice activist I work on a daily basis to make this happen. Through CUNY BA/BS I have traveled to other countries, learned a second language, obtained valuable work experience nationally and internationally, and studied under renowned professors. As a result, I will graduate with a degree that has set me apart from others in my field. CUNY BA/BS has allowed me to turn my interest and participation in social movements into a field of study that has greatly expanded my understanding and appreciation for how and why they develop, and has deepened my commitment to working within them. When other schools created obstacles to my learning, CUNY BA created opportunities and allowed me to receive the quality education that I deserve. With the program’s generous support and faith I have been able to chart my own course and explore my field of study in ways that would not have otherwise been possible.”