The Labor Studies program is administratively housed within the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) with active collaboration from the UCLA Center for Labor Research & Education (the Labor Center). Classes are taught in large part by Project Directors at the UCLA Labor Center, as well as additional in-house lecturers, visiting faculty, and affiliated faculty in other departments. Administrative support is provided by the Student Affairs Officer (SAO) and Student Programming Coordinator.
Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Director
Professor of History and Labor Studies
Tobias Higbie is Professor of History and Labor Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Professor Higbie is a labor historian whose research explores the intersection of work, migration, and social movement organizing in the United States. His current research (with Gaspar Rivera Salgado) focuses on new immigrants and labor unions in Los Angeles and Chicago during the 1970s and 1980s. His most recent book, Labor’s Mind: an Intellectual History of the Working Class, illuminates the world of working-class self-education and labor movement education that seeded the union upsurge of the 1930s and prefigured the rise of university-based labor scholarship. His first book, Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930 (winner of two book awards), is a study of migrant labor and the politics of belonging that showed the centrality of so-called marginal workers to the development of American industrial society.Higbie led the effort to launch UCLA’s Labor Studies interdepartmental degree program and served as the program’s chair from 2019-2022. Before that he was chair of the UCLA Labor and Workplace Studies program from 2014-2019. Before coming the UCLA in 2007, Higbie was an assistant professor in the Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois (2005-2007), and the Director of the Center for Family and Community History at the Newberry Library (2000-2005). As a graduate student, Higbie was part of a large-scale organizing campaign to win bargaining rights for graduate student employees. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois and is a member of the American Federation of Teachers.
Courses: LBR STDS 375, LBR STDS 101 Introduction to Social Movements and Labor in Los Angeles
Labor Studies Program Chair
Professor of Public Policy and Chicana/o & Central American Studies
Chris Zepeda-Millán was born and raised in the East L.A. barrio of Boyle Heights and is an associate professor in the Departments of Public Policy and Chicana/o & Central American Studies at UCLA. He is the author of two books, Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization & Activism and Walls, Cages & Family Separation: Immigration Policy in the Trump Era. His award-winning research has been published in top political science and interdisciplinary journals. He teaches classes on social movements, labor, immigration, and class. As a publicly engaged scholar, Professor Zepeda-Millán has participated in various movements for labor, student, indigenous, racial, environmental and migrant rights.
Gloria describes herself as a citizen of the world. Originally from Colombia, she moved to Los Angeles where she developed an interest in learning about the world. This passion led her to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in International Development Studies at UCLA. She was part of the Transfer Summer Program and participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program where she conducted research on Chinese Immigrant Labor in the construction of Panama’s railroad and canal.
Looking for international experience, Gloria joined UCLA’s Education Abroad Program in Beijing. She also pursued a MBA focused on Strategic Management from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, where she was involved with the Erasmus Student Network (the biggest student organization in Europe) and promoted student development and cultural diversity. Before her current position, she worked as the Global Training Programs Coordinator at Google where she supported career and professional development programs.
As the Student Affairs Officer for the Labor Studies Major and Minor, she is enthusiastic to share her experience with students and guide them in achieving their goals. She believes in a holistic approach to student advising; one that encompasses academic, career, and personal counseling for students. Besides providing academic advising to students, she manages the Labor Studies undergraduate programs, the Labor Summer Research Program, course scheduling, event planning, and student outreach.
As the Academic Programs Manager for the Labor Studies Interdepartmental program, Elizbeth Espinoza develops initiatives and programs to enhance the academic experience for our Labor Studies students, helps prepare them for the workforce, and fosters an environment where students feel supported and connected to each other and to our program of study.
With over 20 years of experience in program development, mentoring, career and academic counseling, and more recently in academic personnel hiring, Elizbeth is passionate about developing initiatives that empower working-class families and workers. A Bruin Alum herself, Elizbeth became increasingly involved in student organizing where she collaborated on developing and implementing high school outreach conferences and mentoring programs. After graduation, Elizbeth returned to the San Joaquin Valley, her second home, to work as a Youth Workforce and Leadership Development Specialist. Enrolling in Stanford University’s Teacher Education Program, Elizbeth specialized in math education and taught middle school and high school students before becoming the first Student Affairs Officer for the UCLA Labor Studies minor program.
During her time as SAO, Student Programming Coordinator at the UCLA Labor Center, and in her current position under Labor Studies, Elizbeth is humbled and honored to contribute to the growth and success of this program leading to the development of the first Labor Studies Major in the University of California system. This journey has led her to currently serve as the Western Regional Representative for UALE, the United Association of Labor Education. A full-time working mom of two exceptionally talented young scholars, in her spare time, Elizbeth also serves as a parent coordinator for Kids for Freedom and Justice, an LA-based kids’ group dedicated to learning and engaging in practices of liberation, freedom and justice toward a better world.
Ueberroth Building 2107
As the IRLE Communications Specialist, Vanessa increases the visibility of the Labor Studies academic program by producing strategic content and managing the website and multiple social and multimedia platforms. Having worked at UCLA Residential Life and UCLA Strategic Communications during her undergraduate years, her experience lies in original content creation, graphic design, and storytelling for student audiences. She aims to create easily-digestible, engaging content and to craft messages that empower and educate.
Vanessa Codilla graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Digital Humanities. While at UCLA, she was involved in various student-led organizations such as VSU Modern, Cultural Affairs Commission, and Samahang Pilipino’s Education and Retention program.
Perla is a second year transfer student majoring in Labor Studies and minoring in Community Engagement and Social Change. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles and the first in her family to pursue higher education. A summer intern alumni for the Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) 2022 in which she worked in collaboration with Fight For $15 in their organizing efforts to pass AB257. She was also involved in organizing efforts with Rideshare Drivers United. Her future interests include qualitative research and working closely with the South Central Los Angeles community to promote social justice. She enjoys going to concerts, traveling, and spending time with her nieces and nephews.
Micaela (she/her) is the Communications Assistant Work Studies for the Labor Studies program. She is a second year student double-majoring in Public Affairs and Labor Studies. Micaela grew up in South East LA after immigrating from Lima, Peru at a young age.
The intersection of labor and immigration has been a core experience in her life as she comes from a family of low-wage workers. These experiences inform her work with different organizations including the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of LA (CHIRLA), the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition (LBIRC), the Orange County Rapid Response Network (OCRRN) and the LA Human Rights Initiative (LAHRI).
She currently works for the Admissions department in addition to Labor Studies as a Bruin Ambassador to low-income high schools. She is particularly interested in a future where she can help craft pro-immigrant, pro-labor progressive policy. Micaela enjoys camping, trying restaurants across Los Angeles, and spending time with her family.
Sherrod is an aspiring researcher, community organizer, and legal professional, pursuing a Labor Studies B.A. at the University of California. At a young age, Sherrod had been very critical of the state of his community and his environment. Hailing from a disenfranchised community, Sherrod made it his mission to acquire skills and knowledge that would afford him to better the conditions of those around him.
With the aim of providing both financial and educational resources, Sherrod hopes to enable his community to be organized and provide services that promote equity and sustainability. Sherrod believes that by pursuing his academic and professional endeavors, he can educate and inspire others to do the same.