Life at Cornell: Syahid Deradjat shares his experience of attending an Ivy League University

Syahid Deradjat
Syahid Deradjat

Our contributor, Syahid Deradjat shares his experience of studying at Cornell University, one of the Ivy League Schools in the US. The Ivy League comprises Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell. The schools are famous for their world-renowned academics, prestige, highly selective admission process, and great career opportunities for their alumni. Syahid went to Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (CILR). He recently graduated from Cornell, not only with a master’s degree, but also a lot of great memories that he will always cherish.

I always knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate study in Human Resources field, and the first time I learned about Cornell ILR School, I didn’t need to think twice.

First of all, Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (Cornell ILR) was the world’s first college-level school for workplace studies. Since its establishment, just after the World War II in 1945, it remains as the leading institution in human resources and labor relations. The school was initiated by a coalition of leaders in American business, industry, labor, government and education, which believed that in order to improve industrial and labor relations in America, it’s important to bring together leaders of both labor and the industry in a common training ground, and that’s how Cornell ILR was born. Cornell ILR is the only Ivy League school which offers an undergraduate program in human resources and labor fields. In addition to its undergraduate program, Cornell ILR also offer master’s and PhD programs, as well as executives education programs.

Syahid and his friends at Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations .
Syahid and his friends at Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations .

Its flagship graduate program, Master of Industrial and Labor Relations (MILR), is the world’s top degree program in the area of HR and labor relations with intense focus on the interaction between people and organizations in the workplace. MILR offers five different concentrations, which are:

  • Human Resources and Organizations
  • International and Comparative Labor
  • Labor Market Policy
  • Collective Representation
  • Dispute Resolution

Cornell ILR is so rich in history and legacy that it decided to maintain its name and already well-established brand of ILR School despite the fact that the majority of the students are now taking concentration in human resources instead of labor.

I’ve just recently graduated from the MILR program in HR&O concentration and that was one of the best experiences in my life. There are so many reasons on why the MILR program from Cornell ILR is the best master program out there for HR professionals.

The first key difference is the selectivity of the MILR program. MILRies, that’s how we called ourselves, are mix of people with diverse experiences, backgrounds, and interests which allow us to learn variety of perspectives, including those of employees, employers, and other stakeholders. My classmates came from various ways of life; leader from Brazilian Central Bank; seasoned management consultant from Japan; Korean Army officer graduated from West Point; American school teacher; Union leaders; and of course HR professionals from different types of sectors such as finance, technology, manufactures, energy, and other sectors of our economy. Almost half of the MILR students are internationals. This allow us to produce high quality debates and discussions in class with strong balance of American and global views.

Outside the class, MILRies develop a very strong bonding through regular night outs, socials, and parties, as well as numerous activities you can enjoy in Ithaca such as hiking, kayaking, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, winery tour, beer tasting, apple picking, and many more. MILRies are also active in many organizations, such as ILR Graduate Students Association (GSA), ILR International Graduate Students Association (IGSA), and Human Capital Association (HCA). My most favorite activity with MILRies is regular potluck dinners with my closest friends where I usually introduced Indonesian food that I cooked to my classmates. MILRies develop a very strong relationship both in professional and personal level. And maybe that’s the reason why thousands of MILR alumni have a strong, lasting network not only with their cohort but also with current students.

Fun fact: with more than 13,000 alumni, 1 in 2 Fortune 500 senior HR leadership teams have Cornell ILR alumni!

Syahid and friends
MILRies develop a very strong bonding through regular night outs, socials, and parties, and other activities.

Beside its people, MILR is best because the flexibility of the program. It’s like I can design my own curriculum which I can tailor based on my personal and professional interest. MILRies are not only allowed to take courses from ILR School, but also from any other schools in Cornell such as Business School, Law School, Public Policy School, Hotel School, and others. I took almost half of my courses from the Business School where me and my fellow MILRies can exchange ideas, debate, and work together with the MBAs on workplace pressing issues such as gender discrimination, leadership crises, business ethics, and sustainability. The degree bring both the theoretical and the practical into focus. As the world of work evolves, the school’s focus broadens to keep pace with that change. Some of my most favorite courses in MILR program are: HR Leadership Views from The Top, Globalization & HR Strategy, Women & Leadership, HR Management in Mergers & Acquisitions, Labor Supply in Global Supply Chain, Disability Consideration in A Workplace, Game Theory & Practice, Power & Politics in Organization, Business Idea Factory, and Leading Agile Innovations.

At Cornell ILR, students have the opportunity to study with more than one-hundred (YES, 100!) professors with outstanding academic background and real-life professional experiences. This is the strongest teaching team you can ever find in any HR school in the US. Aside of the full-time and dedicated faculties, senior corporate executives and global institution leaders also enrich MILR program through deep interactions with students focused on real challenges faced in the workplace. During my study in MILR, I had a chance to sit and talk with CEO and CHRO from American biggest corporations such as GE, HP, Cigna, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, P&G, as well as leaders of the world’s most influential institutions such as ILO and World Bank.

In addition to in-class studies, MILRies have access to extensive resources of more than a dozen Cornell ILR research centers such as; Center for Advanced Human Resources Studies (CAHRS), Institute for Workplace Studies, Yang & Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, Labor Dynamic Institute, Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolutions, etc. I participated in numerous programs from these research centers, such as CAHRS roundtables, workshop on disability in the workplace, conflict resolutions and labor arbitration simulations, guess lectures, etc.

Syahid and friends
Syahid graduated from Cornell, not only with a master’s degree, but also a lot of great memories that he will always cherish.

Furthermore, Cornell ILR Catherwood Library is home to one of the world’s best collections of literatures in HR and labor field. The library is also one of only two official depository libraries of the International Labour Organization (the other being the Library of US Congress).

People say ILR stands for “I Love Reading”, and that’s exactly what it is. After tons of readings, lack of sleep nights, hours of napping at library, and crazy laughs with MILRies, MILR program will always be the beautiful memory that I cherish.


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