Alexander Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, has been named the Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced June 20. The five-year appointment, effective July 1, was approved by the Cornell University Board of Trustees and by the State University of New York Board of Trustees.
Colvin, the Martin F. Scheinman Professor of Conflict Resolution and associate dean for academic affairs, diversity and faculty development, has been serving as interim dean since October, when Kevin Hallock became dean of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.
“I am delighted that Alex has agreed to serve as dean. He has demonstrated exceptional dedication to the ILR School, with a deep understanding of the school’s distinguished history and an outstanding expertise in a broad range of academic areas,” Kotlikoff said. “He’s been an active leader, helping faculty develop their own research, teaching and academic careers, and has made significant progress in diversifying the ILR faculty during his brief tenure as interim dean. Alex offers innovative ideas about the future of the school and will be an excellent addition to the university’s senior leadership.”
As interim dean, Colvin brought several initiatives to fruition. They include the opening of ILR’s new Manhattan headquarters at 570 Lexington Ave., which also houses nine other Cornell colleges and programs. He oversaw the recruitment and hiring of seven new faculty members. And he presided over a review of the undergraduate curriculum, which he began as associate dean; the resulting report, issued in May, recommended new options for students to concentrate elective coursework in areas such as human resources and organizations, labor and social justice, dispute resolution, and the social sector, and strengthened coursework in statistics and data analysis, workplace diversity and inclusion, and work and technology. Putting in place curricular changes will be a top priority next year, Colvin said.
“The ILR School is at a really exciting point,” he said. “Our field is changing, and there are enormous opportunities for Cornell to maintain its leading position in the academic study of work.”
He will ensure the school focuses on issues related to the future of work, he said. Those issues include changes in the organization of work; shifts in the structures of careers and organizations; technological change, including automation and artificial intelligence, and its effect on jobs; challenges facing the labor movement and worker rights; globalization, from global supply chains to labor rights in the global economy and immigration; and the changing composition of the workforce, including issues of diversity and inclusion.
He will also strengthen ILR’s outreach operation. ILR extension faculty do important work with labor, management and other constituencies throughout New York state and contribute significantly to the school’s land-grant mission, he said. “I want to make sure it’s a really vital, engaged part of the school and is linked to the traditional research and teaching activities on campus,” he said.
A faculty member since 2008, Colvin had served as associate dean from 2016 until he was named interim dean, in October 2018. In the associate dean role, he oversaw the initiatives above and chaired ILR’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and ILR’s Undergraduate Admissions Committee.
Colvin has maintained an active research program focused on conflict resolution procedures in nonunion workplaces. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 has quoted his scholarly work on mandatory arbitration twice in her opinions in the last two years.
His other research projects have included studies of organizational turnover, conflict and work organization, and cross-national studies of labor and employment law and workplace dispute resolution.
Colvin has published widely in academic journals and was associate editor of the Industrial and Labor Relations Review from 2011-16. He has also co-written or co-edited five books.
Prior to joining Cornell, he was a faculty member at Pennsylvania State University from 1999-2008.
Colvin earned three degrees from the University of Toronto: a Bachelor of Science in astronomy and astrophysics in 1989, a Juris Doctorate in 1992 and a master’s in industrial relations in 1995. He earned a fourth degree – a Ph.D. in industrial and labor relations – from Cornell in 1999.