ILR Announces Ithaca Co-Lab Initiative

New enterprise will expand connections between the school and community, and deepen ILR’s land-grant mission work in New York state.
Ian Greer
Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Cornell ILR School Dean Alex Colvin has announced the creation of the Ithaca Co-Lab, with Senior Research Associate Ian Greer serving as director. The program, modelled after the school’s Buffalo Co-Lab, will focus on engaged learning opportunities and outreach work in Ithaca and the surrounding region. The Co-Lab will provide students with opportunities to engage with and work alongside local community organizations. 

“Ian Greer is really a perfect fit for this initiative,” said Ariel Avgar, associate dean for ILR Outreach. “He has the right combination of being a terrific scholar of work and labor, but is also interested in making a real difference on the practical outreach front. Over the years, Ian has done exciting and innovating work within the Ithaca community.” 

Greer has worked with the Tompkins County Workers’ Center on its living wage campaign, taught a class that paired Cornell students with Legal Assistance of Western New York to aid individuals with unemployment claims and worked with the Cornell Cooperative Extension examining the role of universities in local economic development.  

“In the short term, we're looking to enhance our engagement with community organizations and with initiatives that are aligned with the ILR School land-grant mission,” Avgar said. “And, we can do that relatively quickly, in large part, thanks to the tremendous number of partnerships Ian has already forged.”

The Ithaca Co-Lab, according to Avgar, will provide students with immersive experiences in local worlds of practice; expand engaged research locally and across upstate New York; promote public dialogue among faculty, visitors to campus and local activists; and make connections between Ithaca residents and policymakers and researchers around the world.

Greer said, “My hope is that we give policymakers, activists and advocates the research expertise and student energy that they can use to meet the needs of working people. My immediate goal as the Ithaca Co-Lab director will be to draw upon resources to carry out more of this work. There is much more demand for our services than we are able to meet, in part because the resources do not exist locally to fully meet this demand. Since coming to Ithaca five years ago, I have learned that I can do quite a lot with Cornell resources, but the next step is to find national or international funders who can support this work with our partners.”

Avgar hopes to see Co-Lab initiatives expand to cover all of Central New York. Ultimately, he envisions a host of partnerships with other Outreach programs. 

“Take for example a program such as our Criminal Justice and Employment Initiative,” Avgar said. “There are clear areas for collaboration between these programs, and I think that will be the case for many of our Outreach initiatives.”

The Co-Lab is one of two recent initiatives to promote the ILR School’s land-grant mission, following the creation of an information hub on the ILR website focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work.