Students Study Global Garment Manufacturing in Cambodia

A winter session trip with the CU in Cambodia Program provided students the opportunity to study first-hand the complexity of the global supply chains in the garment industry.
Students participating in the CU in Cambodia program studied global supply chains in the garment industry.
Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Under increasing international scrutiny for human rights violations and poor labor practices, the apparel industry was studied in Cambodia by 11 Cornell students in January. 

The ILR School course, “Contemporary Cambodia: Labor, Development and Society,” was led by garment industry supply chain expert Professor Sarosh Kuruvilla. The program was designed by the Einaudi Center’s Southeast Asia Program and offered through Cornell’s School of Continuing Education during Winter Session.

Kuruvilla said, “I was very happy to see how students gained an understanding of the complexity of global supply chains in the garment industry, the problems of regulating labor conditions in such an industry and the impact of the industry on Cambodian economic development. They met with all actors in the garment industry ecosystem, and spent time talking with workers.” Challenges of policing apparel production practices are summarized here.

Students, also introduced to Cambodia’s socioeconomic development through the course, said they valued seeing nuances of the country’s development through the garment industry lens.  

Lily Bagher ’21 said, “Set in a post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia with a dynamic population and export economy centered around the garment industry, I could not have envisioned a better time, place or way to learn about Cambodia’s contemporary labor and development.” 

Malikul Muhamad ’20 said, “We were able to meet with manufacturers and managers, union leaders, garment factory workers, government officials-including several ministers and international brands such as H&M. I’ve gone on a number of international experiences since being at Cornell and I really appreciated this program for the exposure to different constituents.”

Thamora Fishel, associate director of the Einaudi Center’s Southeast Asia Program, said, “program faculty come from many different colleges and departments--and CU in Cambodia has been taught by a political scientist, and art historian, and now a specialist in industrial and labor relations. The program has given undergraduates from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds an opportunity to learn about topics of interest in a unique historical and cultural context.” 

The Jan. 2-18 trip incorporated the academic perspective of Vida Vanchan, visiting associate professor of geography and planning at SUNY Buffalo, who led the trip alongside Kuruvilla.

Rocio Chanez ’22 said, “Not only did we have a professor who knows about the labor relations in Cambodia and along other Southeast Asian countries, but we had a professor from Buffalo State who was born in Cambodia and speaks the language.”

The CU in Cambodia program is in its sixth year, and may be offered again during the 2021 Winter Session. For this and other winter options, visit the Cornell School of Continuing Education’s Winter Session website. More information about studying Cambodia and the Khmer language at Cornell, is available here.

The program received financial support from the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, the Mario Einuaudi Center for International Studies, Engaged Cornell and the ILR School.