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Hilda Solis to speak at UCLA on education, social justice

By Benjamin Genta

Feb. 10, 2014 1:34 a.m.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis is set to speak at UCLA on Wednesday about the intersection of education and the workforce.

UCLA’s Academic Advancement Program, a diversity program that provides resources to historically underrepresented students in higher education, invited Solis to be the keynote speaker at its second annual Winston C. Doby Distinguished Lecture Series.

The lecture, created in honor of the first director of the program, is meant to address social justice issues that are relevant to students.

Students and staff requested Solis as a speaker, said Dr. Charles J. Alexander, director of the Academic Advancement Program. Solis will discuss resources that educational institutions should provide to better prepare students for the workforce.

“(Solis) has a history of addressing issues that will improve quality of life of working-class students,” said Annamarie Francois, director of the Teacher Education Program at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “Some folks, including myself, consider education as the civil rights issue of our time.”

Christopher Tilly, director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said three major issues Solis should address should be the rising cost of public education, increasing college diversity and better integrating undocumented students into higher education.

Solis was the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the California State Senate. She also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001-2009. President Obama nominated Solis to be secretary of labor in 2009, where she remained until 2013. As part of the Obama administration, she managed job training and unemployment programs, enforced wage laws and oversaw workplace safety regulations.

“Even before Solis was labor secretary, she was what we call a warrior for workers,” Tilly said. “She advocated for workers’ rights, and is somebody that’s been a friend to working families across her career.”

Under her leadership, 1.7 million people went through federal job-training programs. Solis also hired hundreds of new enforcement officers to ensure companies complied with minimum wage laws.

In 2000, she was the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for working on environmental justice issues in California.

Reservations for the event can be made online and are recommended.

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