The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Advocacy, Activism, Human Rights

Alumnus Tem Blessed ’96, CEO of Blest Energy

Since graduating from UMass, Tem (Legal Studies, minors in Afro-American Studies & Sociology) has established himself as the CEO at Blest Energy. As an emcee, Tem uses hip-hop, poetry, and relevant social messages to captivate audiences internationally. He considers himself a social change leader, and promotes personal growth, global responsibility, and critical thinking. In addition to performing in person, Tem also records his performances and creates music videos.

Regarding his education as it relates to his current work, Tem says "I got a solid education at UMass. I had opportunities to “practice” for real life. I was able to perform at school functions, on the radio station, and get jobs that would prepare me for the youth empowerment work that I do through my music."

Read more about Tem Blessed and his words of advice for current students. 

About the Industry

SBS students are encouraged to engage in a critical examination of society and to develop their own capacities for critical reading, writing, and thinking.  Students interested in Advocacy, Activism and Human Rights may take courses that deal with issues such as freedom and the state, structural inequality in the economy, work and work relations, the interrelationship of racism, sexism, and class oppression, the psychodynamics of politics, and theories of social change.  Students are encouraged to involve themselves in practice as well as theory by enrolling in internships as part of their undergraduate education, by playing a role in University and community affairs, and by assuming active responsibility for the shape of their own education

Sample Classes

Below are a few examples, but we urge you to talk to your major/departmental advisor and explore available courses in SPIRE. Remember not to constrain yourself to classes within your major.


LEGAL 375 - Human Rights and Wrongs: Introduction to humanitarian law. Topics include theory and history of international human rights law, growth and nature of human rights organizations, regional human rights schemes, etc.


COMM 387 - Media, PR, and Propaganda: This course looks at how the industries of media and public relations have been used as instruments of social control and propaganda by economic and political elites.


COMM 250 - Interpersonal Communication: This course introduces non-majors to a variety of competing theories of interpersonal behavior and everyday social interaction and provides them with new ways of thinking about the social situations in which they participate and interact


191 STPEC 2 - Pioneer Valley Political Activism & Community Organizing: In this seminar, you will attend four meetings with local people who identify as activists and/or community organizers. The other class sessions will provide opportunities to discuss the visitors' presentations along with related readings. 


ANTHRO 380 - Grassroots Community Organizing: This course examines how marginalized communities organize to combat racial, economic, and political injustices. Student facilitation, grassroots community partnerships, and an alternative spring break experience enable a unique learning community.


SOCIOL 224 - Social Class & Inequality: The nature of social classes in society from the viewpoint of differences in economic power, political power, and social status. Why stratification exists, its internal dynamics, and its effects on individuals, subgroups, and the society as a whole. Problems of poverty and the uses of power.


RESECON 121 - Hunger in the Global Economy: Explores the causes of hunger (chronic under nutrition) from an economic perspective. Focus on how population growth and economic development are increasing demand for food and on the prospects for food production to supply those needs at affordable prices, while sustaining the environment.


Depending on your main area of interest, your academic pathway will shift. To explore this field, you can take courses that will provide you with knowledge and skills in:

  • Critical thinking - you will learn to reflect upon and evaluate your own ideas and to analyze problems using evidence-based information.
  • Communication skills - you will learn to actively listen to others and to articulate your ideas in writing and verbally in a way that will help you achieve your goals.
  • Teamwork - advocacy and activism are all about working with others to achieve a common goal.  Through class projects and discussions, community engagement, and internship experiences, you will learn to skillfully build community, exchange ideas, collaborate, and you will gain many more qualities of a person people want on their team.
Co-Curricular Activities

Being involved in on and off campus activities and organizations will give you experience and help you hone in on what you really love doing. Consider joining organizations that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the professional areas you’re considering. You’ll learn more about the field, meet people who share your interests, and have something to include on your resume to show your dedication. Go to the RSO webpage and start searching!


  • Student Government Association
  • MassPirg
  • Republican Club
  • University Democrats
  • Young Americans for Liberty
Internships and Experience

Explore the different aspects of this industry through internships, co-ops, job shadowing, and other experiential opportunities. This will help you hone in on your interests while building an impressive knowledge base and resume for when you enter the job market. There are a variety of opportunities to gain experience in these areas.  From knocking on doors for signatures and donations, to working directly with clients, from lobbying legislators to supporting the daily work of a human services organization, your opportunities are broad, and your skills are needed . SBS students and alumni have completed internships in this field at places like:


  • Food Bank of Western MA
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Sustainability Guild, LLC
  • MASS Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)
  • Town of Amherst, MA
  • Nuestras Raices
  • Student Legal Services UMASS


Find an internship or co-op that suits you by using these search and application tips and by searching the Career Connect database.

Sample Job Titles
  • Advocacy Specialist
  • Campaign Coordinator
  • Community Organizer
  • Field Organizer
  • Transgender Employment Specialist
  • Labor & Employment Attorney
  • Oral History Project Technician
  • FlexForce Jobs Coach
  • Civil Rights Paralegal
  • Community Advocacy Program Coordinator
  • Vocational Rehab Counselor