Sue Kozel was born in Somerville, New Jersey in 1958. Growing up in Dunellen, she went to public schools. During high school, she played tennis on the boys' tennis team, as there was no team for young women. She also developed interests in music and journalism.
Kozel began attending Douglass College in 1976 and then transferred to Livingston College, graduating in 1981 with a B.A. in labor studies and political science. She wrote for The Caellian at Douglass, in particular a column called the "Feminist Perspective," and for The Medium at Livingston. She served as a University Senator and student representative to the Board of Trustees. In the interviews, she discusses the atmosphere at Livingston College and influential professors, including Gerald Pomper, John Leggett, Dee Garrison, Sherry Gorelick, Wells Keddie, Charley Flint, Tony Vega and Norman Markowitz. She reflects about being a first-generation college student going to college on the Educational Opportunity Fund.
As an undergraduate and a graduate student, Kozel was a part of the movement against apartheid in South Africa, pushing for the divestiture of University funds from corporations doing business with South Africa. She was a part of the Coalition in Solidarity with South African Liberation (CISSAL) as an undergrad. As an alum in 1985, she chaired the University Senate Investment Advisory Committee, partook in the occupation of the Student Center, and spoke at the decisive Board of Governors meeting about the imperative of Rutgers' divestment. In 1979-1980, Kozel became involved with the Alliance for Rutgers Federation to oppose academic reorganization, which ultimately occurred with the formation of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1981. She also was active in the Committee to Organize Student Workers (COSW) and in the movement against tuition increases. At her Livingston College graduation in 1981, Kozel gave a commencement address.
She began her career working as a labor organizer in Pennsylvania and then at the Public Leadership Education Network at the Center for the American Women and Politics. In 1985, she received an M.A. in Labor Studies from the Rutgers Institute of Management and Labor Relations. In 1987, she received an M.A. in American History from New York University.
In 1988, Kozel became active in efforts of the Friends of the Rutgers Ecological Preserve (FREP) to halt University efforts to develop the Rutgers Ecological Preserve. In the interview, she discusses the coalition-building efforts of FREP, the interplay of the issues of preservation and affordable housing, and the strategies employed by FREP to ensure the protection of the ecological preserve.
Kozel and her husband Chris Berzinski, LC '80, also a student activist involved in multiple movements, amassed a collection of textual records and other artifacts related to activism at Rutgers, which they donated to Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. The "Guide to the Rutgers Grass Roots-Progressive Activists Files" can be found at https://archives.libraries.rutgers.edu/repositories/3/resources/602.
Over the course of her career, Kozel has worked in public relations, including running her own firm SK Visions, and has been involved in local and national initiatives. She has taught as an adjunct history professor at multiple institutions including Kean and William Paterson Universities. In 2021, Kozel served as a one-month fellow with the International Center for Jefferson Studies, affiliated with Monticello, one of Thomas Jefferson's slave plantations. As a recipient of the 2020-2022 Public Scholar designation by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, Kozel is researching "Why Wench Betty’s Story Matters: The Murder of a Slave in 1784." She is the co-editor of Quakers and Their Allies in the Abolitionist Cause, 1754-1808 (Routledge, 2017).