By Kate Helm
After landing a much sought-after job with the American Center for International Labor Solidarity in Washington, D.C., Jeff Zimmer ’10 was told why he was hired.
“[My supervisor] said it was my passion that made me stand out, and Lafayette can take a lot of credit for that,” says Zimmer. “Lafayette doesn’t settle for students who are simply capable. The College wants students to be sincerely enthusiastic about their fields.”
Now as program assistant for the Solidarity Center’s Middle East and North Africa department, Zimmer writes grants and manages workers’ rights programs for the nonprofit organization, which is affiliated with AFL-CIO. He is furthering the organization’s mission of strengthening economic and political power for workers through effective, independent, and democratic unions.
Zimmer, an international affairs and French graduate, who will complete his master’s degree in international affairs at American University this year, says his Lafayette experience cultivated an ability to blend academics with the enthusiasm that so impressed his supervisor.
“Lafayette taught me how to merge academic training with the potential to change the world and to have confidence in what I do know but always stay open to learning something new,” he says. “I received a terrific liberal arts education combining policy analysis, research, language skills, and the flexibility to adapt to changing situations. Lafayette also gave me the chance to weave my passion with my abilities.”
Before his 2009 internship with the organization, Zimmer, who was a Fulbright finalist in 2010, hadn’t even considered a career in international worker advocacy.
“I never thought of workers’ rights and freedom of association as key components of democracy,” he says. “But during my internship, I became very interested in how labor unions both contribute to a democratic society and help protect workers in the world economy.”
Zimmer receives personal satisfaction from his efforts. “I get to work directly with organizations struggling for democratic change from the bottom up,” he explains. “I get to hear their successes, share their disappointments, and support the movement’s progress. It truly is a great feeling.”
In his workplace, Zimmer enjoys the helpful guidance of a Lafayette mentor. Nalishha Mehta ’98 notified Lafayette that the Solidarity Center, where she is a labor union trainer, was seeking interns. She encouraged Zimmer to apply for a permanent position when he graduated from Lafayette.
“Nalishha is a mentor and friend,” he says. “She’s become someone I rely on for learning and support. Even in an office four hours south of Easton (Pa.), I still have the Lafayette community with me.”