The School of Industrial and Labor Relations recently announced changes to its curriculum after more than 30 years, including a new introductory course, more options for data science and statistics classes and an upper-year writing requirement. The new changes will be implemented starting in the fall of 2022, introducing a variety of new graduation requirements that incoming freshmen will have to complete.
According to Alexander Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and Martin F. Scheinman ’75, M.S. ’76 Professor, industrial and labor relations, the last major review of the ILR curriculum was conducted in 2006 and did not lead to any major changes. In 2017, former Dean Kevin Hallock gathered an ILR Undergraduate Curriculum Review Committee chaired by Colvin to conduct an extensive review of the curriculum.
“We went through a long process. A lot of consultation: there was a special committee that came through the original proposal and we did a lot of talking to and listening to students, to faculty, to alumni,” Colvin said.
The changes also include an international course requirement will be added along with a diversity and inclusion course requirement. Lastly, students will be required to complete four sociology and psychology oriented seven-week courses related to work and labor in organizations.
A priority in facilitating these changes was ensuring the faculty were prepared to teach the new courses, and subsequently modifying proposed courses to make sure they fit with professors’ expertise. For example, many faculty members felt that students were not getting the most from the single required stats and data science course, and expressed interest in adding more relevant courses.
One contested aspect of the proposed changes was the structure of the diversity course. Drawing from the suggestion of faculty members, it was decided that the course will be taught in a smaller, discussion-based format, in hopes of giving students a deeper understanding of issues pertaining to diversity.
“[The structure of the diversity course is] certainly a response to a lot of different views that this was an important area we want to focus on. It dovetails with what the University is trying to do in terms of increasing the diversity, equity and inclusion focus coursework that students are doing,” Colvin said.
Dean Colvin believes that while Cornell strives to provide students with a broad understanding of diversity and inclusion on an economic, political and societal level, the ILR school hopes to enhance this knowledge by focusing on similar issues in areas such as the workplace.
He also highlighted the importance of an increased global focus in the curriculum.
“We’re an increasingly globally focused school and that’s important too –– that students have that kind of global perspective, out of the curriculum,” Colvin said.
The committee’s proposal received a unanimous vote from faculty and was approved by the New York State Education Department and the State University of New York.
While current students will not be required to take any of the new courses in order to graduate, Colvin believes that they will benefit from the myriad of new courses available to them.
For the class of 2026 and beyond, he believes that the new curriculum will help them understand changes occurring in the corporate world, while also improving their skills in data science and writing.
Colvin hopes that the curriculum will continue to grow and adapt in order to provide students with new and better opportunities in the future by allowing students to explore certain concentrations in greater depth.
“I think it’ll be something we’re going to keep pushing on,” Colvin said. “This is a big set of curriculum changes but there is certainly specific stuff we’ll continue to be focusing on and, frankly, as we introduce some new courses, we’ll see how they’re working and try to make sure that we’re teaching those as well as we can.”