A Family's Journey

ILR helped graduate understand his roots and prepare for public service
Monday, August 11, 2014

His mother immigrated to the United States from Scotland and his father came from the Philippines.

Until Alex Gancayco MILR '14 took Professor Maria Cook's class on migration, he didn't fully appreciate the context of his family's journey to a nation where the workplace is often a pivotal component of the immigrant experience.

"I learned about it at Cornell," he said in an interview this summer, recounting the social science and public policy perspective that ILR delivered. "Getting that point of view was very gratifying, and it makes me even prouder of the sacrifices my parents made."

Gancayco's parents relocated to Michigan and the District of Columbia before finding rewarding careers in health care and the government.

Gancayco said his interest in ILR was particularly sparked by his father's experience as an American Postal Workers Union member.

At ILR, Gancayco built on law and political science degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of California, Santa Cruz, plus work experience at the National Labor Relations Board in Manhattan and the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Gancayco came to Cornell "with a strong belief in the importance of public service" and began working as the teaching assistant for Wilma Liebman, visiting ILR professor. Liebman is a former chairman and member of the National Labor Relations Board.

"I learned something new every day and working for her was a tremendous privilege," he said. "She is a great mentor."

This month, Gancayco begins a new job with the National Labor Relations Board. He will be based in the Phoenix, Ariz., headquarters for the region serving Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Texas and Nevada.

Working as a field attorney, he will handle trials and assist the agency in its investigation, processing and litigation of unfair labor practice charges.

The first person in his family to attend graduate school, Gancayco will earn a living at the agency charged with enforcing federal labor law. This includes ensuring employee rights to organize and have unions represent them.

"I'm excited," Gancayco said, "and I can't imagine a better way to use my training."