Thaddeus Talbot '15
Making the ILR decision
I’m from Brooklyn, NY and I was looking for an environment that was beautiful to look at, a school where people were inviting and a place to pursue my interest in law through classes and extracurricular activities. I chose ILR because the curriculum had several undergraduate law classes and I knew Cornell had a mock trial team, which was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to focus on my interest in law both inside and outside the classroom. I became interested in law because of participating in mock trial during high school.
During my first year in ILR, I took many interesting classes. I selected a class called Introduction to Disability Studies, where we discussed current issues and policies, including disability laws and their impacts on the workplace. I also took Organizational Behavior (OB) along with Sociology. I had no idea what to think about OB going into it. We learned about organizational cultures, employee motivation and leadership. These classes don’t exist in high school.
I was also able to take classes outside of ILR. I took two courses in the music department, one called Bach and Handel and the other, a Proseminar on Musicology - both with one of my favorite instructors, Professor Yearsley. I sharpened my acting skills taking Introduction to Acting and read the most famous sci-fi books in a class called Histories of the Future. All these courses were quite fun and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about how the world works.
Getting involved, getting support
The mock trial team is sort of like Law & Order, you compete against different top schools across the nation. It is very competitive and fun, and bonds you with your teammates. So, when I got to Cornell, I tried out and made the team. I have already been in a tournament and invitational at the law school.
During my winter break senior year, I worked with a motivational speaker and author as an assistant business manager to design a 10 week curriculum for the retention of Black men at Cornell University. After co-designing this curriculum, I taught it to the members of Scholars Working Ambitiously to Graduate (SWAG), a mentorship program I led focused on enhancing retention and graduation rates for Black men. The curriculum, called SWAG Academy, was a huge success and resulted in our students developing elevator pitches, budget plans, and more.
This past summer I conducted research in Zambia on the influence of public sector unions and their influence on wage negotiations. I was also able to lead a mentorship program of nearly 100 students for the purpose of enhancing academic and personal success.
ILR: One major, endless possibilities
My mother is from Panama and my father was born in the United States. They didn’t graduate from college. I think they have high school diplomas. They work day in, day out, and I saw what they were doing. They always told me, “Thaddeus, if you want to be something in your life, you have to work for it.” They always instilled that principle in me and that was what propelled me to apply to Cornell in the first place. My background is Caribbean-Spanish, and it’s quite interesting in my household.
When I go back to my high school, my teachers and counselors want to know how I’m doing, how my grades are, my GPA, and what I am involved in. Over winter break, they had me speak to the students about applying to college and how to transition into college life. This was a very interesting experience, because I saw myself sitting in those seats only a couple years ago. I know what they’re going through, the challenges they’re facing—both financially and in the application process.