MEC applauds Professor Zulema Blair for adding “J.D.” to her credentials

Dr. Zulema Blair’s zeal for the subject of voting, as well as her scholarly interest in social and economic class (and how it intersects with race) led her back to the classroom.  As in law school classroom for a Juris Doctorate, which gives her the distinction of being the only MEC faculty member with both a doctorate (in Political Science) and a law degree.  It is also an uncommon double-threat within the City University of New York system.

Dr. Blair, an associate professor of Political Science and Public Administration, was greeted with a flurry of congratulatory emails from colleagues recently after earning the degree from New York Law School. Her colleagues were especially impressed because Dr. Blair has taken on several prominent roles at MEC over the years. They include becoming the first female chair of the Department of Public Administration, the director of the Freshman Year Program, and deputy director of the DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy.     

The law degree, she explained, will help in her ongoing research. It also fulfilled a long-held wish. “There are lots of things I can do as a researcher with a law degree – voting rights, civil rights, housing law, anything that jeopardizes our liberties,” Dr. Blair said.

The return to school for the mother of two and avid community volunteer required some fancy scheduling, though. “I did it in the evenings as a part-time student and over the summers,” she said. Still, she was able to complete her degree in three years.

The professor’s book “Participation at the Margins: Is it Race or Class?” highlights her research interests and findings.  Social class cleavage is greater in the black community than in any other racial and ethnic group, she contends.  For the past few decades, lower-income black people were more likely to vote in presidential elections than any other group, she said. Her book explores several theories for the findings.  

At MEC in the Fall semester, Dr. Blair will teach a course titled “Crime and Punishment in Urban America,” which is certain to be popular given the polarized national debate about race and criminal justice.

Discrimination based on race and class persists, she tells her students. “They want strategies,” she said.  “I tell them to read. You’re in a space, in a generation, where everything is at your disposal.” She also tells them to work hard in school, vote, and to be active civic participants.

“Being at a college like Medgar Evers, at this point in time, we are able to shape the conversation,” Dr. Blair said.

Her next project is a book on reparations “under the idea of contract rights and what we’re owed as a society,” she said. Now, with no major elections on the horizons, her focus has shifted to the Bar Exam.

“I have to pass,” she said with a smile.