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Fighting for justice in all corners of the world

Salutatorian Julia Mangione served as president and student-worker relations coordinator of the USC Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation. (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

That quote, which is attributed to an aboriginal activist group in Australia, is a favorite of salutatorian Julia Sabo Mangione — and it says a lot about her.

“Human rights has always been a real concern and focus of mine,” said Mangione, who is graduating with a 4.0 GPA in international relations and minors in environmental studies and Spanish from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Early on, Steven Lamy, professor of international relations, became a mentor to Mangione and helped her declare her major.

“I saw international relations as a way to start investigating the question: Why aren’t human rights being upheld — not only in the United States, where they are not upheld at the state we would like them to be, but also internationally — and what kinds of solutions are out there?” she said.

Mangione, who matriculated as a USC Trustee Scholar in the Thematic Option honors program and later earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa, recently received the Emma Josephine Bradley Bovard Award for academic excellence at the Academic Honors Convocation.

As Mangione explored the concepts of human security and global equality in the developing world, took a course in global environmental politics and studied feminist international relations theory, she found that a minor in environmental studies tied in nicely with her major.

“I became really interested in gender studies and how they intersect with climate change,” she explained. “If we empower women and energize their efforts to protect the natural environment, we can actually begin combating climate change on local levels.”

Of course, an international relations major should travel the world, so Mangione spent a semester in Chile, where she completed her minor in Spanish. She also studied in Cambodia and the Arctic through USC’s Problems Without Passports, courses that combine problem-based learning research exercises with study abroad.

In Cambodia, Mangione conducted research on the country’s genocide and the court that is prosecuting the top Khmer Rouge leaders.

“It was a phenomenal experience as a freshman to get to do all of that,” said Mangione, who emphasized how USC’s varied study abroad and research opportunities drew her to the university.

During her Arctic trip to Sweden, Finland and Russia, Mangione studied ecological security and global politics. She learned about a key intergovernmental forum called the Arctic Council, which prides itself on the fact that it includes indigenous people’s organizations, and decided to look into the effectiveness of that participation for her senior honors thesis — for which Mangione received full honors.

While studying human rights internationally, Mangione was also actively involved in advocating for underrepresented students and labor rights both on campus and in the local community.

“You don’t have to go anywhere to engage in the field of social justice,” she said.

Growing up in the San Francisco suburb of Menlo Park, Mangione attended a diverse charter high school, an experience that she said helped her identify the local equality problems in her community as well as connect with the Spanish-speaking Latino community.

At USC, because she “wanted to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in the local community who pursue higher education,” Mangione joined the USC Chicanos for Progressive Education, where she developed curriculum and coordinated a mentoring program for first-generation college students.

She served as president and student-worker relations coordinator of the USC Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE), advocating for better working conditions for employees in the dining halls and dorms. Through her work with SCALE, she also successfully led a two-year campaign to affiliate USC with an independent factory monitor.

“Collaboration between students and administration on this issue led to a policy change that will greatly improve the working conditions of people producing USC apparel,” Mangione said. “We are grateful to President Nikias and other top administrators for their openness to working with us on these issues. This was a real success story.”

Mangione also campaigned with the Unite Here Local 11, the union that represents more than 700 hospitality workers on campus. She looks forward to continuing that kind of work this summer as a part-time employee with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

“I’ll be working locally with immigrant workers to inform them of their rights as well as connect them with the national immigration debate,” she said. “My work in labor at USC has shown me how important it is to address local human security issues as well as global ones.”

Eventually, Mangione hopes to pursue a master’s degree in international development.

“I think coordinating local grassroots efforts globally is what I would like to engage in, exploring how we can energize local community leaders and coordinate that strategy internationally,” she said. “I definitely like the idea of working to pursue social justice on a global scale.”

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