After earning an ILR School degree in 1983, Seth Harris gained an international reputation as a labor and policy leader, adviser to presidents and their cabinets, accomplished scholar and educator and, most recently, as deputy secretary of labor for the United States.
Harris takes on his newest challenge as an ILR School Distinguished Scholar beginning Jan. 20. He will collaborate with faculty in ILR’s Department of Labor Relations, Law and History, teach courses in labor law and policy, and advise students on internship and job opportunities in Washington, D.C.
“I hope to offer students a combination of scholarly depth, developed during nine years as a law professor, with practical policy experience, acquired over 11 years working in the U.S. Department of Labor,” Harris said.
Harry Katz, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn Dean, said: “Seth is among an elite ILR alum group that has risen to the very top ranks of leadership in federal government and policy. His experience in the Obama administration, along with his scholarly pursuits in areas integral to an ILR education, will provide an even deeper perspective for our students both inside and outside the classroom.”
Harris served as deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor from May 2009 until this month, managing 19 agencies and four adjudicatory boards. He oversaw functions ranging from strategic planning and performance management to legislation and policy development and implementation.
As acting labor secretary for a portion of his service, he served as a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet. Before joining the Obama administration, he was a professor and director of labor and employment law programs at New York Law School since 2000.
Harris, whose disability experience includes research on the economics of the Americans With Disabilities Act, will assist with a disability law course this spring. He will travel between Washington, D.C, and Ithaca. “I want to meet regularly with and counsel students, offer my faculty colleagues insights into the policymaking process, and help my former government colleagues to understand the tremendous value the ILR School can offer.”
Harris never lost contact with ILR after graduating, but returning to the school as a distinguished scholar has special meaning, he said.
“I’ve stayed in touch with faculty members like Ron Ehrenberg, Ron Seeber and Dave Lipsky,” Harris said, “… in a very real sense, this is a homecoming for me. It’s like being welcomed by your family after a long and exciting journey.”
Joe Zappala is assistant dean of communications and marketing at the ILR School.