By Isabella Bruno
Anlly Palacios’ cultural background has served as a source of inspiration for her academic career.
Palacios, a senior majoring in sociology, hails from Jamaica, Queens. Her Ecuadorian heritage helped her fit perfectly into the predominantly Latino and African-American community there.
“Coming to Binghamton was the first time I felt like a minority,” Palacios said. “I experienced some culture shock.”
So when it came time to choosing a major, Palacios had a good idea of the direction she wanted to head in.
“I have always been interested in the way in which things work in a societal aspects,” Palacios said. “Sociology offered me a medium in which I could explore my interest and find answers to my questions about people and communities and how they work.”
In the summer prior to her freshman year, Palacios participated in the Student Support Services program.
The program is geared toward helping students from low-income backgrounds, first-generation college students and those with disabilities. It allows them to spend one week on campus to help acclimate them to this new chapter of their life.
Palacios noticed a major difference between Jamaica and Binghamton once classes began.
“I did not see people who looked like me and it was something I had to get used to my freshman year,” Palacios said.
Palacios saw this as an opportunity to represent her community and have her voice be heard. She quickly took on positions throughout campus.
“Binghamton has provided me an opportunity to do so many amazing things and meet so many people,” she said. “I have been able to conduct research, be a leader on my campus, and give back to the community.”
She received a job working at the Science Library front desk, which she has maintained for her full four years here, and has been on the Dean’s List consecutively since the spring of 2014. That all amounted to her becoming a part of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program.
The program allows minority students to achieve a graduate degree through supported research, academic seminars, and eventually present at the McNair Research Conference, which is attended by fellow scholars and faculty.
During her final year, Palacios was elected to serve on the executive board of the McNair Scholars Program, an opportunity she was pleased to accept.
The most rewarding part of being in the program is the chance to conduct research, Palacios said.
“As a new scholar, I was not sure what to do research on, so I approached Dr. (Leslie) Gates and she recommended I work with her on a project she was working on with various other faculty in other institutions,” Palacios said.
For the past year, Palacios has been looking into the change in labor demographics on New York dairy farms with Gates, an associate professor of sociology in Harpur College. Their goal is to better understand the reasons behind the ongoing shift to employing migrant laborers. Gates and Palacios have explored economic, political, and social reasons for why this might be happening and what the advantages or disadvantages may be. They hope to bring awareness to a community that they believe is often undervalued.
“Since the research involved investigating an industry that employed undocumented immigrants for cheap labor and not giving them basic labor rights such as collective bargaining or safer working conditions, I wanted to help make a difference,” Palacios said.
For Palacios, this research became a link between her interest in sociology and her pride in her Latina heritage. Through it she hopes to bring change and education around the subject.
“My hope for this research is to give some insight to social and labor advocates who are organizing campaigns to promote legislations that could help undocumented workers on dairy farms,” Palacios said.
Over this past summer, Professor Gates and Palacios traveled to Cornell University to use its agricultural databases, comb through business databases, and interview many of the leading scholars and experts on topics of dairy.
“Dr. Gates and I, we both had to start at the bottom. So it was a learning process for the both of us,” Palacios said.
The main focus of this research project is to expose the conditions on dairy farms, especially since New York’s dairy industry is the fourth-largest in the country.
“I would like people to know that this was all possible because farms are employing undocumented Latino laborers, who are not given any basic rights on the farms,” Palacios said.
Palacios’ hard work and efforts were summarized into a presentation for Research Days, which took place in April in the University Union.
There’s no question that for Palacios, who will graduate in May, the next step is graduate school. In the fall, she will attend Cornell University to pursue her master’s degree in public administration.
Research aside, there’s much more that Palacios has learned while at Binghamton, with one of the most important lessons being something she’ll be sure to take with her.
“Resilience,” Palacios said. “Things do not always work the way we want them to at first — but it gets better.”
Last Updated: 3/1/17