Why Major X - ILR

Using your personal, academic, or volunteer/work experiences, describe the topics or issues that you care about and why they are important to you. Your response should show us that your interests align with the ILR School.

I’m not really the “Ivy League” type. I’m from the working class, raised by parents who didn’t go to college. I’ve lived my whole life south of the Mason-Dixon line and I hate the cold. Yes I do well in school and I seem to have a bit of a gift for the standardized tests, but I’m not the classic “top of the class” nerd type. I’m far more likely to spend the afternoon working on restoring an old Mustang my Dad picked up for a song and gave to me on my 16th birthday with the understanding that I had to make it run if I wanted a car to drive, than I am doing anything academic.

So I’m as surprised to be submitting this application as you are to be reading it. But here’s the deal. Things changed pretty dramatically for me last year when the UAW (that’s United Auto Workers) came to town. In my Alabama community, the Honda auto assembly plant is a major employer. Everybody has some relative who works there – me included. In my case both my parents along with some aunts, uncles, and cousins work there. And therefore everybody, and I mean everybody, has an opinion about the UAW.

In my household, it’s two for and two against and this division has created a lot of tension in our once relatively laid-back happy family. My Dad and I are for the UAW; my Mom and younger brother are against. The issues surrounding this union effort are the classics. My Dad and I believe that having a union will give improve things for workers, giving them a bigger voice in working conditions and discouraging the use of lower paid, lower-skilled temporary workers. My Mom and brother believe that having a union will encourage Honda to shift work away from the plant and maybe even close it, ultimately resulting in fewer jobs and economic hardship in our community.

I’m so convinced that the union is a good thing that I’ve started volunteering at the local union organizing headquarters. And that’s where I met my mentor, Joe Organizer, who is a recent Cornell graduate who majored in Industrial and Labor Relations.

Joe showed me that I could translate all my interest in helping the working class into a real job. I hadn’t really realized that was a possibility until I met Joe. Joe also sold me on Cornell and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He’s assured me that I could succeed there and he’s worked hard to convince me that my idea of the “Ivy League” type is an unfair stereotype. He’s told me great stories about his fantastic professors, his friends and classmates (especially his fraternity brothers), and his amazing internships. So when he encouraged me to look into for myself, I did.

I learned that everything Joe said is true – especially when it comes to internships. I can do the FEX program my first year, the WISP program my second year, and internships for credit during my third or fourth years. If I do a good job networking with faculty and graduates like Joe I could probably even swing a few summer internships. With all of these internships and what I learn in class, I’m relatively confident that I would have my pick of jobs when I graduate. For a working class kid whose parents have gone through layoffs and lengthy unemployment, that’s key.