Alex Bores '13
Studying labor issues
I'm from New York City and was initially intrigued by ILR's mix of law, business and government. I also have a bit of a labor background; both my parents are in unions and I even have a button that says "I'm 100% Union Made." So with that background, the ability to study these topics in a modern context was really exciting.
One of the first courses I took in my spring semester freshman year was "Work, Labor, and Capital in the Global Economy," a class taught by four professors, each focusing on a three-week segment: history, migration, capital movement and regulation in the international arena. It was a great introduction to many different perspectives on one issue. Hearing four experts in their fields talk about how globalization affects them and their study was interesting. Professors Kuruvilla, Batt, Cook and Applegate taught the course.
I participated in debate in high school all four years, so when I was looking at colleges, I was looking for a team. Cornell has a very strong debate program. By the time I got to campus, though, I had decided that I wanted to separate from debate. I still went to a few meetings anyway, and I fell in love with the program all over again. The kind of debate we do in college is called Worlds Debate; you're looking at issues from anywhere in the world. You can be discussing America's economic woes in one debate and the next you're talking about the Sri Lankan elections. It builds a global perspective and makes you pay attention to everything that's going on in the world.
Being involved with the debate team gave me some great opportunities. In my freshman year, my debate partner and I were selected to participate in an international debate round robin with 60 of the top teams from around the world. We made it to the finals, and I was hooked after that. We also went to a tournament at the University of Toronto that is known for pulling in students from England, Canada, and America, and we won that tournament.
Becoming a Cornell leader
I ran for the student trustee position at the end of my sophomore year and became a full voting member of the Cornell Board of Trustees, one amongst 63 others. I decided to run for it in part because of the work I'd done with Students Against Sweatshops with Nike. I really saw that students have the power to change the campus and the world. During my sophomore year, as the Reimagining Cornell plan was being implemented, a lot of students felt that their voices weren't being heard. I felt that my work with the Nike campaign positioned me well to communicate what students want to the administration and vice versa. I thought it was important for me to step up and take that role.
There were three planks to my platform: transparency and communication, health and student safety, and quality of life.
The experience not only met my expectations, but far exceeded them. I had full voting rights, which I was expecting, but I wasn't aware of how much trustees and administrators value student input. They turned to me all the time to hear what was happening on campus and to hear our perspective. I got to see offices and roles that are crucial that I would never have seen as a student.
For two summers, I conducted research in NYC through the ILR Extension Office. My research was on union administration with Lois Gray and Ken Margolies – studying how unions handle their own HR and management and the dynamic that develops when they become so large that the staff becomes unionized by another union. We turned a lot of what we learned in ILR on its head by applying HR to unions. We focused on New York City, looking at local unions, their solutions to their unique problems and how they can be even more effective.
ILR: One major, endless possibilities
ILR sets you up for so many different things. You're learning how to work with people in any setting, which is always helpful. I was very interested in international trade regulation—how countries can structure trade agreements to take labor standards into account, how domestic labor expectations can be applied to globalized companies and how things are made overseas and working through the process of regulation in an international context without hard and fast international law.
My advice - definitely visit the campus. It's beautiful and you'll fall in love. In high school, you might think like me that you have your entire life planned out, but a lot changed when I got to college. Keep your mind open. You want to go where you can explore a variety of interests and where you'll be exposed to thoughts, ideas, and movements that you could never imagine. That's what you'll get at ILR.