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Undergraduate Admissions Blog

Stories from ILR Undergraduate Admissions

Josh Lafazan - one of the New York's youngest elected officials

Josh Lafazan '16

In May of 2012, at the age of 18, I became one of the youngest elected officials in New York State. I was elected to the Syosset School Board of Education during my senior year of high school and held this position throughout college.

After graduating from ILR, I completed a graduate degree in education and then ran a successful campaign to become the youngest legislator ever elected to the Nassau County Legislature. Given my desire for a career in public service, I was often asked why I didn’t choose a college in Washington, DC or a government major. The answer is quite simple: I do not believe there is a program in America that better prepares you for a career in public service than Cornell’s ILR School.

First, the unique courses prepare you for the challenges and opportunities often faced by public servants. Whether bargaining with our teachers, improving diversity efforts or debating how to best include and support stakeholders throughout our community, I regularly draw upon the lessons on negotiations, diversity and inclusion, and group dynamics from my ILR classes.

During the spread of COVID-19, I was able to refer back to my leadership courses and draw from the case studies and research we conducted. This helped guide my strategies for crisis management, communication, and the implementation of volunteer initiatives. My coursework in Diversity & Inclusion and the lessons about systemic racism have also helped guide me as a legislator, where I've worked to protect funding for underserved communities and expand representation in local government.

Cornell also has one of the most politically active and vibrant campuses in the world. Ask any politician about the best way to get your career started and they will tell you to work on a campaign. From student government and Student Trustee races to off-campus opportunities with the city council and county legislature, the university provides countless opportunities to work for campus, city, state and national political campaigns.

Whether you watch hours of C-SPAN and read political news every night, have already decided to run for office, or have no interest in politics, ILR will give you the background and skills to be a better-informed citizen, which is the bedrock of our democracy.