Our Own Emily Conway featured in St. Mary's College Publication

Recent graduate Emily Conway ’21 has secured a full-time job as a research and policy associate with the North Bay Labor Council, a democratically elected body that represents the interests of over 70,000 working people in Marin, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino Counties. 

Conway landed her job after interning with the Contra Costa Labor Council through Saint Mary’s Henning Institute, a center for the study of Catholic social thought inspired by the life and work of Saint Mary’s graduate and labor leader John F. Henning ’38. 

“I saw the listing on Handshake and was interested in community activism, so that led me to [the internship],” said Conway. “It’s through Saint Mary’s, so you have the benefit of support and check-ins on campus, and it benefits the Labor Council because they get to introduce a new person to the labor movement, and get help and guidance from a student.” 

Conway has been working to pass local COVID-19-related sick leave laws, and recently partnered with North Bay Jobs for Justice to advocate for farm workers who pick grapes in Sonoma County wineries during fire season. 

“I’m really grateful that I have the chance to work with so many incredible community advocates and to enact meaningful changes with them. Working side by side with workers at every level and all sorts of different communities and industries has been really incredible. It’s also very rewarding to run a successful campaign and then speak with workers and hear the difference it’s making in their lives,” said Conway. 

Conway credits Politics Professors Mindy Thomas and Patrizia Longo, and Anthropology Professor Anna Corwin for shaping her interests in community activism and policy change. “I would say the most important thing about my time at Saint Mary’s was the mentorship that I gained with the small class sizes and the close-knit community. I was really able to build relationships with my professors and staff.”

“There’s this understanding in Saint Mary’s classrooms that learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it takes collaboration and it takes working with others to come up with the best creative solutions and make change,” said Conway. “I think the classes I took at Saint Mary’s taught me to be confident in my knowledge and how to work with other people’s strengths to create something that’s greater than what any of us could have done on our own.” 

During her time at Saint Mary’s, Conway was a dedicated student leader at the Intercultural Center, and she said Director Legacy Lee built her confidence and power as an activist. “Being involved with the Intercultural Center for two years as a student staff member completely changed my life, and the skills that I learned there are skills that I use every day in my job. The organizing skills—how to have difficult dialogues with community members on social justice issues, how to advocate for myself in those situations, and how to hold my ground but maintain a conversation that’s respectful and productive—that’s been a huge thing in this job,” said Conway. 

Conway hopes to use this job to gain experience in the labor movement, prepare for law school, and pursue a career in civil rights and labor law. 

While Conway said she was hesitant to pursue the internship because she didn’t have experience in the labor movement, she encourages current Saint Mary’s students to apply. “If you’re someone who cares about empowering your local community, if you want to take direct action and work with your community, then you’re a great fit for the labor movement.”

To learn more about Saint Mary’s Henning Institute, visit its website. For more information about the internship, contact Professor Ted Tsukahara ([email protected]).