January 27 2010
ILR Graduate Studies at Cambridge University
ILR graduate Blair Lapres '09 reports on his experiences pursuing a Masters in Development Studies
Where I am now
So last year while at ILR I reported in an IP student profile that I did not know where my future would take me, but that I trusted my international education at ILR would surely help me land on solid ground. More than a year later, I have found myself continuing my education "across the pond" at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
How I got there
While at ILR I took a variety of courses in topics such as poverty, development and the global labor movement. These courses originally sparked my interest in international development. My first really international class at ILR was ILRIC 235 Work, Labor and Capital in the Global Economy, which gave me the broad spectrum of analysis that I think any ILR scholar needs to begin their international education. That course set the foundation for the rest of my international study at ILR.
In the summer before my Senior year, I realized that in order to break into the International Development career field, I would need a Masters degree, as that is the industry standard for paid entry level jobs. After an extremely strenuous and uncoordinated application process I found myself with an "offer to read" for a Masters of Philosophy degree in Development Studies at Cambridge University.
The Need for ILR in International Development
When I arrived at Cambridge, in the first few hectic weeks of October I met my supervisor, who this year is burdened with an unusually large amount of students to supervise. Nonetheless, the first time we met she remarked to me how she remembered my application, specifically because I was the only student she ever had that studied Industrial and Labor Relations. Paraphrasing from what she said, she noted how much, "Of a breath of fresh air it was to know that people are studying that [ILR] as an academic discipline." And indeed in the world of international development, ILR scholars are very much needed.
In one of my first classes at Cambridge we read one of Cornell Professor, Kaushik Basu's, articles on labor regulation in developing countries. As the term progressed I found my other ILR classes to be extremely helpful in grasping the concepts we were reviewing in my Cambridge classes. For two weeks we studied the economic history of development, which I already had a firm grasp on from taking Professor Boyer's course on the Development of Economic Thought and Institutions.
Then my first un-assessed essay was on the topic of poverty and inequality, which I was more than prepared for after taking Professor Fields’ course Labor Markets, Income Distribution, and Globalization: Perspectives on the Developing World. Furthermore, I would like to think I have always brought a fresh and unique labor perspective to the classroom discussions from other courses I have taken at ILR, like Professor Compa's International Labor Law class.
Cambridge may be the only other place in the world where the reading lists are longer than at ILR, but I was more than prepared for the endless pages. Nonetheless, since Cambridge is a highly decentralized university comprised of 31 independent colleges, a central University administration, separate faculties, and a bureaucratic library system it makes coordinating resources between the four extremely difficult to adapt to.
I must say I miss Catherwood Library very much. Even so, the way things work (or don't for that matter) at Cambridge is rather charming in a way. I've been told to just adapt to it since things have not changed much in the University's 800 year history.
I am a member Darwin College at Cambridge. It is one of the all-graduate colleges and the grounds of the college are comprised of the former housing complex of the family of Charles Darwin. The Cambridge Colleges are where students of all academic disciplines live, eat and socialize. They are supposed to provide the "pastoral care" for students and fellows. In a way ILR provided this same function for me at Cornell, where it was the "small school in a big university."
Cornell in the UK
There are three other Cornellians in my college alone and countless others throughout the university. Many of them are some of my best friends here. This Autumn I went with another ILRie and Cambridge graduate student, Dmitri Koustas BS ILR '09, to the Cornell Club of London Thanksgiving Dinner. (Dmitri is doing an MPhil in Economic History at Clare College of Cambridge University). There were over a hundred Cornell alumni and study abroad students from all over the UK in attendance. This just goes to show how truly vast Cornell and ILR's international network and community are!
Where I hope to be
As I finish up my degree at Cambridge, I know that the education offered to me by both Cornell and Cambridge combined with the great network of alumni around the world will help me on my path to working as an international development practitioner in the years to come.