Tobias Higbie appointed as UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Director

UCLA IRLE Newsroom | September 2, 2022

Tobias Higbie – professor of labor studies and history and former associate director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE)  –  has been appointed as the institute’s new director as of September 1, 2022. 

Higbie succeeds Abel Valenzuela Jr., who was appointed as interim dean of the division of social sciences in the UCLA College.

“I am thrilled to appoint Professor Tobias Higbie as IRLE’s next director,” said Valenzuela. “For the past six years, we have worked closely to build and enhance the labor studies interdepartmental program and increase student and faculty engagement with research focused on Los Angeles, work and workers.” 

Higbie has been a longtime leader at IRLE and has served as the institute’s associate director since 2009. He led the effort to launch UCLA’s labor studies interdepartmental degree program – the first in the UC system to offer a bachelor’s of arts in labor studies – and was the program’s chair from 2019 to 2022. Prior to the launch of the major, he served as chair of the UCLA Labor and Workplace Studies program for the academic minor from 2014 to 2019. 

Before coming to UCLA in 2007, Higbie was an assistant professor in the Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois from 2005 to 2007 and the director of the Center for Family and Community History at the Newberry Library from 2000 to 2005. 

As a labor historian, Higbie has led research efforts that sit at the intersection of work, migration and social movement organizing in the United States. He is the author of Labor’s Mind: an Intellectual History of the Working Class and the award-winning Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930, illuminating the history and issues affecting working-class communities and migrant workers. 

“I am confident that with Tobias’ leadership, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment will continue its groundbreaking work linking UCLA with our students, faculty and research to move Los Angeles forward and change the world,” said Valenzuela. 

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