Alumni talk with students about global justice careers

Lauren Burke '06 (center) talks about her experience with issues of global justice. She is joined on the panel by Tiana Davis Hercules ’04 (left) and James Rogers ’04.
Lauren Burke '06 (center) talks about her experience with issues of global justice. She is joined on the panel by Tiana Davis Hercules ’04 (left) and James Rogers ’04.

As law school graduates, Lauren Burke ’06, Tiana Davis Hercules ’04 and James Rogers ’04 will be the first to tell you that a career in global justice means much more than litigation.

“It’s not about doing a case for somebody – it’s about empowering them to take control over their own lives,” Burke said.

Speaking at the second event in the “Striving for Global Justice” campus series last week in Shain Library, the three young alumni activists touched on many of the same issues raised by New York Times columnist and author Nicholas Kristof, who gave the program’s keynote lecture earlier in the semester. But as alumni working in fields related to human rights, empowerment and advocacy, they took the discussion one step further by sharing with students first-hand knowledge and advice.

Burke, a 2009 graduate of New York University School of Law, is the supervising staff attorney at the New York Asian Women’s Center and an adjunct clinical professor at Brooklyn Law School. She is also the executive director and co-founder of Atlas: DIY, a non-profit cooperative center in New York City offering legal, mental health, career, educational and life skills services that help empower immigrant youth and their allies.

“So much about social justice is helping others, and for me, it’s about giving them access to their rights,” said Burke. “That’s what will keep you going. You will see your clients going out there and changing the community and changing the world.”

At Connecticut College, Burke was a scholar in the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts and studied East Asian languages and cultures while pursuing a self-designed major in socio-cultural dimensions of internal relations.

Hercules is a New London native who double-majored in government and sociology-based human relations and was a scholar in the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy. She holds a master's degree in business administration and a law degree from the University of Connecticut. At the event, she encouraged today’s students to think about ways to achieve global justice on a local level.

“Realizing the issues overseas is wonderful, but there are some very significant disparities right here in our own backyard,” Hercules said. She encouraged students to connect and partner with the community and make use of the excellent resources at Connecticut College.

Today, as a program director for the City of Hartford, Hercules works to deliver comprehensive education, employment and economic stability services to Hartford residents.

Rogers, co-owner of New York City’s Pushcart Coffee and Cowboy Pizza, LLC, brought an entrepreneurial perspective to the panel, describing the way that businesses can become hubs of activity for community empowerment. At Connecticut College, Rogers was an American studies major and a Holleran Center scholar. He went on to graduate from Cornell Law School.

Throughout the talk, the alumni stressed that taking any action, no matter how small, can impact a community for the better.

“The world is not going to be changed by any one individual,” Hercules said. “Know that you have partners and allies who are in the struggle with you and who want to see the world transformed.”

March 6, 2013