The CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies (SLU) offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Labor Studies and Urban Studies that are designed to meet the needs of working adults as well as traditional-age college students who seek to learn more about the challenges confronting poor and working class populations in the workplace and in the community. It also collaborates with other units of CUNY to offer a range of college-credit programs designed to give workers the academic and technical skills they need for professional advancement. Its faculty includes distinguished scholars in the social sciences as well as expert practitioners in government, labor, and public service. In addition to its academic programs, SLU sponsors research; organizes forums and conferences; and publishes a national journal, New Labor Forum: A journal of ideas, analysis, and debate.

The Murphy Institute

The Joseph S. Murphy Institute focuses on education for workers and union members and serves as a research and resource center for publications and public programming. The Institute traces its roots to 1984 and in 2005 was named in honor of former CUNY Chancellor Joseph S. Murphy, a tireless advocate for labor and worker education. The Institute continues as an entity within the School of Labor and Urban Studies, with two specific goals: 1) offer public forums, publish material, and offer programs that will encourage public discourse and greater civic participation, and 2) partner with unions, employers, and other CUNY units to expand educational opportunities for union members and other adult learners seeking to attain the knowledge, skills, and credentials they need to achieve their career goals and improve their economic wellbeing.

Vision, Values, and Goals

The vision for this new School derives from its core values: access to education, diversity at every level, social justice, and equality for all. Its goals are to expand higher education opportunities for workers; prepare students who aspire to careers in public service and movements for social justice; promote civic engagement; provide leadership development for union and community activists; and help workers achieve greater economic security. Its perspective is unique, addressing the needs of its constituents while helping New York City and State fulfill their needs for a well-educated, highly skilled public and private workforce.
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Four Pillars of Education

To accomplish its goals, the School will have four units—or foundational pillars: Labor Studies, Urban Studies, Workforce Development, and Community Service. Of equal importance, these pillars will support a range of intellectual aspirations and practical needs and serve as a gateway to college for many workers and working-class communities.


Faculty for the new School includes both prominent and promising scholars as well as expert practitioners (Distinguished Lecturers). Many are also social activists. Collectively, SLU’s full-time and consortial faculty have authored 71 books– many have been ground-breaking and policy-setting. Alongside these leading scholars are full-time and adjunct faculty-practitioners who share their wealth of practical knowledge and experience and help students develop the skill sets they will need for public service and social justice advocacy. The School will build upon a long history attracting high-profile practitioners.


Current and prior students of the School include union officers, organizers, researchers, political directors, and directors of labor-management funds. Others are elected officials, legislative aides, commissioners, policy analysts, and agency managers. Still others are journalists, editors, and college instructors. One is a New York State Senator. Another is Assistant Director of Cornell University’s industrial and labor relations library, among the most comprehensive resources for labor and employment in the world. Still another is a co-founder of the Working Families Party.


The School of Labor and Urban Studies is an outgrowth of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies (JSMI). Named in honor of former CUNY Chancellor Joseph Murphy, JSMI was formerly affiliated to Queens College and more recently the CUNY School of Professional Studies. A leader in adult and worker education for nearly 35 years, it was established in collaboration with three New York City unions and began with 52 students. Today, the leaders of 26 labor and community organizations serve on its Advisory Board. More than 1,200 adult and traditional-aged students are currently enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in Labor and Urban studies and in workforce development programs. The Joseph S. Murphy Institute will continue as an Institute within the new School, focusing on workforce development programs and housing the School’s Community Service unit, with its public programming, research, and publications.