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Students on the slope

Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Workforce Leaders: Stephen Kim and the ILR WIDE Program

Stephen Kim

A passionate educator and advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, Stephen Kim, Ph.D. 20, serves as Assistant Director of the ILR Workplace Inclusion and Diversity Education program. “ILR WIDE”, launched in March of 2022, is a center for diversity and inclusion education, combining research, teaching, and organizational practices in close collaboration with Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP), an academic initiative fostering understanding through dialogue.

Stephen took his first IDP course in 2015 while pursuing his PhD in Literatures in English at Cornell. The course challenged him to think more critically about relationships, social structures, and institutions, which inspired his continued involvement. After receiving his doctorate, Stephen became IDP’s Curriculum Specialist and Lecturer which ultimately led to his appointment as ILR WIDE Assistant Director. At ILR WIDE, Stephen manages educational programs–designing and teaching student courses, supporting faculty, and overseeing experiential programs.

Much of Stephen’s work focuses specifically on ILR students pursuing the ILR credit internship, a unique opportunity for eligible juniors and seniors to gain professional experience interning with a variety of organizations while also receiving a full semester’s credit. Specifically, Stephen instructs ILRID 3610, Workplace Inclusion: Theory and Practice. The 3-credit online course allows ILR WIDE Student Fellows to pair theoretical studies with their experiential learning to develop a more holistic understanding of dialogue and workplace inclusion. By reflecting on their internship experiences, students strategize ways to build inclusive leadership through empathy and awareness.

Importantly, Fellows are equipped with the skills for successful dialogue through the prerequisite course, ILRID 2610, Intergroup Dialogue. As Stephen emphasizes, “the critical dialogue we practice in IDP views human connection as a foundation for talking about identity, power, and agency”.

Just as dialogue is capable of transforming the classroom, so too is it capable of transforming the workplace. By training tomorrow’s inclusive workplace leaders and supporting applied graduate and faculty research, ILR WIDE works to advance ILR’s core mission of “generating and disseminating knowledge that improves the lives of workers and transforms the future of work”.

Notably, ILR WIDE is by no means limited to just those who are interested in working in DEI. The program is valuable for anyone who hopes to promote DEI at work, regardless of industry. Participation in ILR WIDE inspires students to think about their impact at every level, even as interns and recent graduates. In addition to industry-specific DEI considerations, students have shared that they are challenged to consider such factors as social identity and cross-cultural approaches to DEI.

Student participants have especially appreciated the opportunity to engage with Stephen. Former student, Julia Haberfield ‘23, described Stephen as “the kindest and most patient educator [she’d] come across at Cornell”. Another student, Elle Michel ‘25, shared this sentiment, praising Stephen’s unparalleled ability to make students feel heard. She explains that Stephen “affirmed [students] as intelligent and capable” and taught her never to downplay her skills, voice, or opinions.

Given the vulnerability required to engage in discussions concerning identity and power, Stephen aims to foster classroom community from day one on, working to build an inclusive group identity while also affirming differences.

In cooperation with other members of the WIDE team, Stephen is working diligently to expand the growing program. In preparation for future offerings, he encourages students to take ILRID 2610, a prerequisite for all ILR WIDE programs which can also count towards course requirements. For students and fellows alike, this foundation is crucial for those interested in dialogue as a means of achieving more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces.

Written by Yasmin Ballew ‘23