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Athena Last

Senior Research Fellow

Athena is passionate about conducting research that has a direct benefit on historically marginalized populations. She received higher education degrees–all in sociology–from Syracuse University (Ph.D.), California State University, Los Angeles (M.A.), and California Polytechnic University, Pomona (B.A.). Her research interests include labor and labor movements, workforce/community development, and health/environmental inequalities. In an attempt to combine these interests, Athena’s dissertation research analyzed the use of Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) as a tool to achieving economic, social, racial, gender, and environmental justice. She used case studies in the Rust Belt to compare the ability of Pittsburgh’s bottom-up model with Cleveland’s top-down model to foster greater community participation, achieve a democratic participatory process and redistributive outcomes, and exert influence over the future planning process.

While attending Syracuse University, Athena became a member of and formerly served on the board of Urban Jobs Task Force of Syracuse, a grassroots organization that advocates for economic justice for City of Syracuse residents. She collaborated with a research team to publish a report revealing the underrepresentation of people of color, women, and local residents on public construction projects in the city. The research paved the way for a successful campaign that established a 15% local hire goal and community participation process for the redevelopment of the I-81 Viaduct.

While Athena grew up in the temperate climate of Southern California, she enjoys the changing seasons in Central New York (CNY) and all the region has to offer. This includes exploring CNY’s remarkable waterfalls and gorges, attending summer festivals and the New York State Fair, and biking along the Erie Canal.