PHENOMenal Walkers

PHENOMenal Walkers

Meet some of the PHENOMenal Walkers who will be walking part or all of the 114 miles from Pittsfield to the State House in Boston to Defend Public Higher Education!

Mickey Gallagher is a Higher Education Consultant with the Massachusetts Teachers Association. She graduated from Mount Wachusetts Community College, went to undergraduate and graduate school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and attended WNEC Law School. Mickey is originally from Keene, New Hampshire and has resided in the Northampton area for the past 25 years.

“I am walking because I’m concerned about the future of the Commonwealth as we continue to divest from public higher education.  Privatization of this essential public good results in an education system dependent upon the goals and aspirations of private entities.  Our education system must be based upon a broader set of values that include democracy, social awareness, and contributions to a brighter future.”


Ken Haar was born in Queens, NY and lived in Hauppauge, NY for most of his childhood.  He graduated from Southampton College of Long Island University in 1970 with a degree in Mathematics, and obtained a Master’s degree from the State University of NY at Albany in 1971.  Currently, Ken is President of the Massachusetts State College Association union at Westfield State University, and is an associate professor in Computer and Information Science, Education and Psychology.  Ken is PHENOM’s treasurer, Westfield State University’s assistant softball coach, and advisor to the Student NEA chapter at WSU.  He is married to his lovely wife Marcia, also a union president; they have 3 grown children, all of whom escaped back to their family roots in New York City.

“I am walking because I was taught to believe that if you are not part of the solution to a problem, you are part of the problem.   So I walk to expose the crime that’s being committed against our students, our institutions, our state, and eventually our country.   We can not sustain the neglect of the very institutions that sustain our knowledge economy.  Massachusetts doesn’t have gold mines or vast plains of fertile farmland.  We are dependent on the intellectual capital of our people.  When our poorest can not go to college because we’ve cut financial aid while raising costs for the past 20 years, we doom them and eventually ourselves to become a nation in the backwash of civilization.  I don’t want to go there; I’d rather walk to Boston.”


Alex Kulenovic is a recent graduate of UMass Boston and PHENOM’s Organizing Director. He can often be seen on many campuses driving the distinctively painted “PHENOMobile” and helping organize new and existing chapters. A self-described “policy and politics geek” even in his free time, he also enjoys rock climbing, hiking, scuba diving, and plays the cello. He was Student Trustee for UMass Boston and was active on campus on a variety of issues. Alex graduated in 2009 with a Master’s in Public Affairs. Prior to joining the staff of PHENOM, Alex was the President of the organization’s Board.

“I am walking because I believe access to an affordable, quality public higher education will be among the defining struggles of our time. As our country has become more unequal in income, wealth, and opportunity, and as knowledge increasingly becomes the basis of our economy, the question of whether higher education is for everyone or for a privileged few will determine the justice or injustice of our society and the health of our democracy.”


Dale LaBonte is a librarian at Quinsigamond Community College. She loves her work connecting students with the resources they need to fulfill an assignment. Dale is a graduate of UMass Amherst twice over–for a B.A. in Women’s Studies and an M.S. in Geography. Dale serves on the board of PHENOM.

“I am walking because education is key to a better life, and public colleges and universities put that key within reach of ordinary citizens. PHENOM’s Great State of Mind campaign is an opportunity to connect the dots between a well-educated populace and the funding required to support that benefit. I also love walks in the autumn. Plus I took a hiking tour of Ireland in August with REI Adventures and got hooked on long walks and dramatic vistas.”


Stasha Lampert is an undergraduate student of economics and political science at the UMass Boston where she is also serving as Student Trustee. She is PHENOM’s president for the year.

I am walking because public higher education in Massachusetts has been enduring deep cuts over past years, particularly recently, sending many schools running into operating budget gaps and deficits, motivating the pursuit of actions such as raising tuition and fees, lay-offs and cutting programs. It is not just a side-effect of the recent economic crisis, but really characteristic of how public higher education institutions have been regarded by the state in the past: as a low-priority, non-asset.

I’m hoping this march provides both visibility and substance to the argument that public higher education does in fact matter for the cultural and economic development of both the state and society at large, in part evidenced by the dedication and passion of those members of the public higher ed community involved in this walk. Public higher education in Massachusetts deserves to be recognized for the great contributions that it makes, and therefore supported, now and in the future, for what it does and will continue to add to the Commonwealth.


Alicia McGrath is a junior at Westfield State majoring in Criminal Justice. She is from Hingham, MA a suburb located 20 minutes south of Boston. She is a very active person and enjoys running. Right now, she is balancing classes, homework, an exercise routine and the three kids she babysits, so she is very busy!

I am walking because I as an adopted person I benefit from Massachusetts law that allows me to receive free tuition and fees at Westfield. Education is important to me, especially public education, and I feel that by walking I can help in the efforts of PHENOM.


Max Page is Professor of Architecture and History at the Universit of Massachusetts in Amherst.  He is the author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940 (University of Chicago Press, 1999), which won the Spiro Kostof Award of the Society of Architectural Historians, for the best book on architecture and urbanism. He is also the co-editor (with Steven Conn) of Building the Nation:  Americans Write About Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Environment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003. His latest book, The City’s End:  Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction was published by Yale University Press in 2008.  He is a recipient of fellowships from the Howard Foundation, Fulbright Commission, and the Guggenheim Foundation.  His next book project is entitled Priceless: Rethinking Historic Preservation in the 21st Century. Max is Vice President of PHENOM.

“I am walking because access to high quality public education for everyone is the bedrock of an economically healthy and a socially just society.  In Massachusetts, which pioneered the idea of universal public education, we have steadily undermined our commitments to public higher education, threatening the promise of public higher education for all.  I am walking to help bring that problem to light and move us toward a dramatic reinvestment in our public colleges and universities.”


Manuel Pintado is an inspired Latino person who has a deep sense of justice and equality for everyone. He will be attending UMass Amherst this spring. Manny graduated from Holyoke Community College with the class of 2010.  He will be a Sociology Major with a Minor in Education. A former United States Navy reservist, Manny is very passionate about education.

“I am walking because education is very important to me and I sincerely believe that this drive will show our representatives that Unity is what makes stronger bonds, and seeing us marching together will show that education should be affordable for everyone no matter what color, race, creed or age. This should be a very meaningful rally and I am so proud to be walking with such a great group.”


Melissa Urban is a Management major hoping to graduate this May 2011. She grew up in Sutton, Massachusetts, but now resides in Worcester when she is not in Amherst. Melissa is interested in politics, grassroots organizing, cooking, and listening to music.  This past spring she organized a student-led Lobby Day bringing 70 UMass students to the State House in Boston to advocate for more funding for public higher education in Massachusetts. Melissa serves on the board of PHENOM.

“I am walking because I am passionate about affordable education because I am a recipient of the MassGrant. I have watched as so many of my friends have to leave school due to financial constraints, so I’m walking for them.”


Ferd Wulkan has been active in the labor movement as a rank and file activist and as union staff for almost 40 years.  His work in higher education unions led naturally to a deeper understanding of how the increased role of the market has undermined higher education and how students, their families and union members have a common stake in reversing the process of privatization that is taking place.

“I am walking to supplement PHENOM’s efforts at organizing, advocacy and coalition building.  We need dramatic attention-grabbing activities to awaken our constituents and shake up our decision makers.  It is shameful that Massachusetts is so far below the national average in its support for public colleges.  This Walk brings together two different passions of mine: hiking and political work!”