Marissa Morrison '13
Business, disability studies
- Member, Social Business Consulting Club
- Management Consultant, PwC
Marissa is from Thousand Oaks, California, and thought she would stay in Southern California her entire life. She decided to challenge herself by leaving the comforts of home in Southern California to travel first to Ithaca, NY, and then to India to put theory into practice and solve real-world problems.
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, but my classes have helped me see all the opportunities that are out there and they’ve had a big impact on how I see the world. I remember stepping into my first Human Resource Management class and having my eyes opened to this new field I hadn't heard of before. I always felt that helping people and business were mutually exclusive, but now I know there are jobs out there where they can come together. I love communicating and interacting with people, and when you have a company, people are the most integral part of the organization. It seems exactly like what I’m supposed to do.
I’ve become very interested in disability policy and globalization with a social justice focus, and at the end of the day I want to make sure I’m doing something that helps people. When I was taking Intro to Disability Studies, we talked about inclusive design, and now I look around with a totally different perspective and can see whether a place is handicap accessible. I took Disability Policy Under Globalization, which helped me realize that I can find a career where my interests in business and social justice can meet. I also took Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Work, and that was one of my favorite classes. It really got me interested in international business. I’ve always loved to travel, so it was interesting to learn about the ways that individualism, collectivism, and all the factors that define people also define business in a global setting.
Working in India
I found out about ILR’s Global Service Learning 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 this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. It was more of a consulting experience - talking to businesses and educating them about people with disabilities. Disability policy is very different in India. The country 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 well, they're meaningless.
My project was working in the public sector. 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 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, and some hired them and realized that people with disabilities are among the top performers. 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 become so moved by the presentation that he agreed to distribute one million copies of e-learning software that sensitized youth to people with disabilities. The experience helped me grow so much as a person.
One thing I was afraid of was coming to a big school. The great thing about ILR is that it’s a small community. That’s one of my favorite things. When you walk through the halls, you will see people you recognize after your first week. There’s a small university feel to ILR. I looked forward to going to class every day, partly because I love the material and partly because I love the people.
Being in India helped me better understand why I came to Cornell and the goals I have for the future. At the end of the day, college should help you grow as a person, and if you grow as a businesswoman or intellectual on top of that, then the college is really doing its job. Individual personal growth is fostered at ILR, and that's what I love about it.