Troy Neves ’16
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My Story

“Currently I work for United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) in Washington DC, as the domestic campaigns coordinator. Our campaigns support student labor organizing on college campuses. I became interested in this work through my involvement in Northeastern’s Progressive Student Alliance. What drew me to labor organizing, informed by work in sociology and anthropology, is that it is a tangible way to build sustainable and real power for working people.”

My Path
Troy Neves
Why Sociology and Anthropology?

“I found my way to sociology and anthropology based on my desire to have a way to not just learn about social structures and power relationships, but to also address ways that they can be changed.

I felt that a sociology and anthropology major had that potential: to analyze social structure and power in a way that emphasized individual’s agency to change those structures. Additionally, I appreciated that self-awareness and self-reflexivity were built into the curriculum.”

Transformative Coursework

“Sociology of Boston” 

“This is the first sociology course I took at Northeastern. Len Albright is an engaging, dynamic and hilarious professor, who made each lesson better than the last. It really solidified for me that sociology was the right path for me to keep moving down, because of its interdisciplinary way of pulling together diverse ways of looking at the world: feminist studies, urban studies, sociology, politics and history, to provide a more complete picture of the forces shaping the urban experience. I used my fieldwork assignments as an opportunity to explore the ways community members spoke about gentrification in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood.”

“Gender and Sexuality: A Cross Cultural Perspective” 

“This was my first anthropology course and my first with Professor Nina Sylvanus, whom I ended up taking three courses with throughout my time at Northeastern. This course transformed my understanding of identity by really challenging the idea that identity is something universal: that everyone sharing one identity, experiences it in the same way. It was a really powerful course that was complicated and nuanced by virtue of being rooted in human experience. One of my favorite ethnographies, Global Cinderellas, a book on migrant women doing domestic work in Taiwan, was a focus of this course. This introduction to ethnographic perspective made me interesting to pursue sociology and anthropology further.”

“Ethnography of Southeast Asia” 

“This was one of my last courses at Northeastern and Professor Doreen Lee is another professor who any class of hers I recommend taking- she pushed me to take my analysis further and I am a better scholar and writer because of it. This was a seminar-style course with class discussions rooted in the text rather than lecture. Taking the case study of Southeast Asia, we explored how the region could be used as a lens to view the rest of the world differently. We read a number of fascinating ethnographies and historical accounts, a lot of which were rooted in student activism and state repression. These texts in particular helped me reflect on my own work and the role of students globally in enacting social change.”

Experiential Learning

“Throughout my time at Northeastern, I did work study at the Social Justice Resource Center (SJRC). I was a student member of the first Dismantle Retreat organizing committee, a retreat for students on deconstructing power and privilege. Being a part of the SJRC community was core to making my Northeastern experience what it was. Playing a small part alongside the program director, Shaya Gregory Poku, in growing and building the SJRC up to become an invaluable institution on our campus, is something I cherish greatly about my time at Northeastern.”

Photo from the Dismantle Retreat in 2015
Northeastern students show support for adjunct faculty before union vote.
Campus Involvement

“When I was a first year, a friend of mine invited me to a meeting of the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) on campus, she told me—’I know that you are really passionate about social issues, you should come to this meeting where students share those passions and are actually doing something about it!’. When I attended the meeting I found that was exactly the case.

Through PSA, I applied to become a regional organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), working on campaigns of all different kinds building networks of student activists in Boston. Through creative awareness-building actions, we supported Northeastern’s adjunct faculty in their successful campaign to unionize: enabling them to secure better pay and job security which in turn enabled them to be more fully present as teachers.”

Cooperative Experience

“Through my USAS network, I secured a co-op with National Nurses United (NNU) in Oakland, CA with the California Nurses Association (CNA). Over six months, I worked on the Campaign for a Healthy California, fighting for Medicare-for-All in California in a statewide coalition of organizations. I was able to be a part of organizing a national day of action to celebrate the 50th birthday of Medicare in the United States. Additionally, I worked to build student support for the Robin Hood Tax campaign. My favorite part of this co-op was traveling to Las Vegas for the first Democratic Primary Debate in 2015 after NNU had endorsed Bernie Sanders. This experience overall clarified for me that I wanted to continue organizing after I graduated.”

Medicare Turns 50 Rally in Oakland, CA
Next Steps

“I plan to continue working to enact social change through mobilizing people and organizing, because despite there being many reasons to feel despair these days, we have power within ourselves and our communities to make change.

Being a good organizer is rooted in being able to listen to people empathetically, but also having a vision for the future and the courage and strategy to see it through. I honed those skills through studying sociology and anthropology. Combining anthropology’s ethnographic focus on lived experience with a sociological analysis of power structures, I was given important tools for understanding our social world and identifying targeted ways to make change. For instance I am now organizing with student workers around the country who are demanding better wages and dignity for all campus workers. In some cases, the universities are the largest employers in their cities or states, so when students organize to demand a $15 minimum wage on campus, they can shift entire economies. This is a great example of how student organizing can provoke wide-scale change. Being an organizer is a truly transformative experience that has taught me just how much power we truly have.”

Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
This was Troy's Northeastern Pathway... Where will yours lead?