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Home » Clarion » 2011 » September 2011 » New Pension & Benefits Coordinator Comes to PSC

New Pension & Benefits Coordinator Comes to PSC


Jared Herst grew up talking shop with his father, a forward-thinking financial planner who left his job as a broker in the 1970s to establish a firm of investment advisors for financial and retirement planning. His clients included employees at Princeton University.

Jared Herst fields a call at the PSC Central Office.

“I saw my dad do comprehensive financial and retirement planning for individuals and how it helped better people’s lives,” recalled Herst, who took over in June as the PSC’s new Coordinator of Pension and Health Benefits, replacing Clarissa Weiss who recently retired after holding the position for 27 years.

Herst, 38, comes to the position with 16 years of experience in the financial services industry. He most recently worked for five years as a pension consultant at TIAA-CREF, which provides retirement benefits to thousands of PSC members and to academics, medical researchers and employees of nonprofits across the country.


At TIAA-CREF, Herst served members at four CUNY campuses – John Jay, Medgar Evers, Hostos and Lehman – as well as at NYU and Columbia. Herst visited CUNY campuses regularly, meeting with PSC members and working closely with college human resources departments.

“Working with these institutions for several years has helped me better understand the needs and goals of our membership,” said Herst, who will visit CUNY campuses throughout the coming year at the invitation of PSC chapter chairs.

“I worked with Jared for years while he was at TIAA-CREF,” said Weiss. “He’s very knowledgeable, and also easy to get along with. I’m confident he’ll take good care of our members’ needs – and that lets me enjoy my own retirement!”

New York State law calls for full-time members of CUNY’s instructional staff to participate in a retirement system – either the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), a defined-benefit plan, or the Optional Retirement Program (ORP), a defined-contribution plan in which participants choose either TIAA-CREF or an alternate funding vehicle offered by Guardian or MetLife.

CUNY adjuncts, who are only eligible to be enrolled in the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), become vested after completing five years of total credited service. For adjuncts participation is voluntary, but Herst strongly urges adjuncts to sign up. “Adjuncts should take advantage of this,” he said. “It’s a way for them to build up a pension for themselves.” Since the employer also contributes, those who don’t sign up are essentially leaving money from CUNY on the table, he said. (Adjuncts wishing to learn more should contact Herst or Ellen Balleisen at 212-354-1252; Balleisen has been counseling part-timers about TRS for several years in the PSC.)

Herst says preparing for retirement is a long-term endeavor that should get some regular attention. He noted that the union’s job is not to advise individual members on exactly how to invest the money, but rather to help them understand the full range of options and how to develop a plan that works best for them.

“Don’t be shy about your questions,” Herst said. “We are here to serve members at every stage in their career at CUNY, and after they retire, so they can make informed decisions.”

In addition to Herst, there are five other members of the union’s professional staff who are new this year. “It is exciting to add able and experienced staff as some staff retire and others move on to new opportunities,” said Deborah Bell, PSC Executive Director.

Fran Clark came on board as Communications Coordinator in February. He works with the PSC leadership to disseminate the union’s message to members, elected officials and the general public. “I’m also a resource for chapters, committees and union activists,” Clark said. Clark knows the CUNY system and the politics of higher education well: he previously worked for 10 years as higher education program coordinator at the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), which has chapters on 20 campuses.


Ida Cheng started as Assistant to the President in July. Cheng, who has a master’s in public administration from NYU, is working with President Barbara Bowen on research and policy issues, and on internal communications. She has previously worked as a researcher at SEIU 1199 on that union’s campaign to organize long-term care providers, and as a consultant to the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. “This is the perfect convergence of my interest in public education and labor rights,” Cheng said.

Organizer Sarah Hughes also joined the staff this summer. Hughes previously organized graduate assistants at the University of Massachusetts, where she was a student in UMass Amherst’s master’s program in labor studies and vice president of the Graduate Employees Organization, part of UAW Local 2322. “I’m finding the switch from leadership to staff really interesting,” says Hughes. “The PSC Organizing Department is very collaborative, and it’s been a great learning experience.” At the PSC, she’ll be working with chapters at City Tech and other campuses.

Coordinator Arsenia Reilly, who began work at the PSC at the start of this semester in organizing and contract enforcement, is the organizer for the newly formed Research Foundation chapter, whose 700 members won their first contracts last spring. Reilly will also work with the Contract Enforcement Department to make sure that members’ rights under those contracts are fully respected. With a master’s degree from Rutgers in labor studies, Reilly’s ten years of experience in the labor movement includes directing contract administration staff on grievances and contract campaigns, and internal organizing at SEIU 1199-NJ. “I have a one-year-old-son, Declan, who, like me, enjoys picket lines, rallies, protests, labor songs and chants,” Reilly told Clarion.

Jonathan Vandenburgh joined the Organizing Department in mid-September. After earning his BA in history at Yale, Vandenburgh spent six years working in the Strategic Campaigns Department at the United Steelworkers union. His wife, Raisa Rexer, is working on her PhD dissertation in French literature at Yale. “I’m married to an academic and I come from a union family,” said Vandenburgh. “My dad is the president of an IBEW manufacturing local outside of Pittsburgh. “I’m honored to work for a union that is an anchor of the struggle for economic justice in New York City.”

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