Marissa Morrison '13
"I always felt that helping people and business were mutually exclusive, so I thought there was no way they could come together. There’s a world out there where they can come together. Getting to work with people is something that I know I want to do."
Marissa decided to challenge herself by leaving the comfort of Southern California to travel first to Ithaca, NY for courses in disability policy and cross-cultural perspectives and then on to India to put theory into practice and solve real world problems.
I'm from Thousand Oaks, right outside of LA, and I thought I would stay in Southern California my entire life. Coming to New York was huge for me. I came to Cornell, took a tour, and felt like this was what I needed to challenge myself. It was very comfortable in California. Coming to Cornell, with the diversity of students, size of campus, changes of seasons, has helped me find out who I am. When you're away from everything you know, that's when you really have to develop yourself as an individual.
Finding my passion
I really like the value that ILR places on international relations, globalization, and social policy. I thought I wanted to go to law school when I applied. Then I remember stepping into my first Human Resource Management class and being blown away, my eyes opened to this new field I hadn't heard of before. I have become very interested in disability policy and globalization with a social justice focus.
I have taken courses in disability policy and cross-cultural perspectives. I have also been able to do research for the Employment and Disability Institute and spend a summer in India working with people with disabilities.
I always felt that helping people and business were mutually exclusive, so I thought there was no way they could come together. There's a world out there where they can come together. Getting to work with people is something that I know I want to do. I love communicating and interacting with people, and when you have a company, people are the most integral part of the company. It seems exactly like what I'm supposed to do.
Working in India
I found out about the Global Service Learning pilot program in India that focused on working with people with disabilities and thought this was a perfect opportunity to incorporate every aspect of what I was interested in.I'm half-Indian too, so that was cool.
It was more of a consulting experience - talking to businesses and educating them about people with disabilities. Disability policy is very different in India. India has some of the best legislation as far as protecting people with disabilities but they have the worst implementation. You can have lots of laws, but unless you implement them, they're meaningless. My project was working in the public sector. Looking at disability through the eyes of religion and karma and reincarnation was challenging.
I was working with training centers to get them to agree to train people with disabilities. The government reserves 3% of all jobs for people with disabilities, but the positions were not being filled. The government says that no one is qualified and they are just waiting for qualified people. People with disabilities say that the jobs are impossible to get and no one will hire them. My job was to fuse those two mindsets. I worked with really prominent centers that did training for the public sector, met with the CEOs, scheduled meetings, conducted research and gave presentations about the benefits of hiring and working with people with disabilities. We opened employers' eyes to this. Some hired them and realized that people with disabilities are among the top performers. So then they'd come back to our training center and ask if we had any more people they could hire! We saw the CEO of a software e-learning company be so moved by the presentation that he agreed to distribute 1 million copies of e-learning software that sensitized youth to people with disabilities.
This experience helped me grow so much as a person. Being in India helped me better understand why I came to Cornell and the goals I have for the future. Having the time to fully focus on my passions was great and I don't think an internship in NYC would have done that for me. This summer, I feel like I'm ready for that, but I needed the India experience first.
At the end of the day we're people and college should help you grow as a person, and if you grow as a businesswoman or intellectual on top of that, then it's really doing its job. Individual personal growth is fostered at ILR. That's what I love about it.