Lily Ellis '14

Lily Drennon

Lily Ellis '14

ILR Experience: Independent Study: "Self-Efficacy and Work: do you ‘think you can,’ and why that matters."
Lily transferred to ILR from a community college where she was a member of the student assembly and served on a dozen committees. After speaking with professors about their research, she became interested in using psychology and the research process to explore her own questions about people, organizations, and the world.

Currently, Lily is a Ph.D. candidate with the Department of Organizational Behavior at the ILR School.


I came to ILR because I’ve always been interested in doing work that helps other people. I wanted to understand the link between employee attitudes and productivity, how to improve attitudes through task variation and organizational culture, and how the information we learn about these issues can be applied to any organization. I've held jobs in both good and bad environments, so I've seen how peoples' work situations directly impact their quality of life. Your work experience affects whether or not you wake up excited for the day, how you treat other people, whether you and your organization achieve your goals, and the way you feel at the end of the day when you return home to your family. All of that is directly related to what happens to us at work.


I always enjoy hearing ILR professors talk about their research because it's so applicable to the real world, and a lot of it challenges how people and organizations currently work. After learning about faculty research in creativity and negotiations, I found myself interested in how they came to their conclusions. I realized that I wanted to learn how to find answers to my own questions, and now I have the chance to do that.

For my independent study, I’m looking at self-efficacy, the degree to which you believe you’re capable of successfully completing a task under different conditions, and its workplace implications. I was asked to give the graduation speech at my community college and I used the famous Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t - you’re probably right”, so this topic of how the degree to which we think we’re capable of something can impact the outcome has always fascinated me. A lot of us already believe that this is important, but I want to know why it’s important and how it’s connected to our success, our attitudes, and our overall happiness.

Life at ILR

When they joke that ILR stands for “I Love Reading,” they’re not kidding. Of course, all the work and reading feels worth it when I take a class like Labor History and realize I haven’t learned that much from one class in my entire life. You’re not just learning historical facts, you’re being taught to make important connections. Cornell is also a very welcoming and supportive place, and if you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll find that you have every single thing you need to succeed. You’re going to have to work hard, but if you do, you’ll get so much out of your time here.