May 20 2013
One degree, divergent paths for new graduates
The possibilities created by an ILR education are endless, and the post-graduation plans of Kevin Weber '13 and Whitney Holman '13 seem to prove it. In July, Weber begins his career in GE Capital's Financial Management Program. Every six months, he rotates to another company division.
"I'll be exposed to as many areas as possible — risk analysis, auditing, financial planning, forecasting."
Holman joins the Teach for America program this fall, after a summer of training. Her first assignment is in Texas, teaching math to middle school students.
"Teach for America is a leadership program. Through this, I'll be able to help alleviate educational inequities, and it connects me to policy."
Beyond these positions, they don't know what is ahead. Both are confident, though, that ILR has prepared them well to take on the future.
"ILR has made me really adaptable. I can be put in any situation, apply the skills I learned, and turn that situation into a success story," Holman says.
She did exactly that during her time at ILR. Holman came to the school after a year in the College of Arts & Sciences, where studying Chinese was a focus. She moved to ILR because of its strong international component and smaller school environment.
During the past two summers, she gained practical experience as an intern working for Target and United Technologies Corporation.
At Target, Holman worked in an HR rotation program. She interviewed job candidates, conducted performance reviews and helped coordinate team-building initiatives.
Holman was introduced as a team leader in a store managerial rotation.
"I was completely terrified. I had never worked in a store before and was managing people older than me. I got a lot out of it, though. It taught me about persevering, about the importance of asking for help, and how to motivate people without being condescending."
Her success, she says, can be attributed in part to what she learned about working in teams from her Organizational Behavior classes. She adds that the internships showed her the breadth of HR work in practice.
Weber, who transferred from Rutgers University, says ILR gave him a good foundation. "ILR helps you learn more about yourself and who you are." For him, that includes realizing he enjoys helping people achieve their full potential.
In addition to serving as president of the Society for Human Resource Management Club and being involved with his fraternity, Weber seized many opportunities at ILR. They included internships with IBM and law firm Berke-Weiss & Pechman LLP, where Laurie Berke-Weiss '71 is a partner.
A chance meeting with Beth Florin MS '85 introduced him to the compensation world, which influenced his decision to pursue financial management.
Weber was working in Catherwood Library when he met Florin and helped her search for a copy of the thesis written by her late husband, Joe Rich '80, MS '86.
They didn't find the thesis, but Florin gave Weber her card and said, "If I can help you in any way, give me a call."
Two days later, he emailed her. Three weeks later, he secured an internship at Pearl Meyer & Partners, a compensation consulting firm where Florin is a managing director.
Another defining moment came when he taught English to students in a rural area of India through ILR's Global Service Learning Program.
"This helped me understand another culture from the perspective of the people who are part of it, not just from what we learned in class. It was a life-changing event."
Weber says his ultimate goal is running a nonprofit charitable foundation and making a difference, much like a Cornell alumnus he very much admires, Charles Feeney '56, School of Hotel Administration. Feeney is founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world.
At ILR, Weber says: "I learned more about my desire to see other people succeed. I want to be able to give back in my work."
Holman hopes that her Teach for America experience will help send a strong message to her students — "you can become whatever you want to be."
"Middle-schoolers are at an impressionable age. I want them to know that they can go further than high school, and help them get a college preparedness mindset and see that the sky's the limit."
After completing her two-year Teach for America commitment, Holman says pursuing an MBA is a possibility. She also likes the idea of human capital consulting or finance.
"Who knows what I'll be doing in 50 years," Holman says. "But, I think I'll always come back to what I learned at ILR."