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ILR’s Ithaca Co-Lab to focus on engaged learning, outreach

Engaged learning and outreach in Ithaca and central New York will be the focus of the ILR School’s Ithaca Co-Lab, announced April 17 by Alexander Colvin, the Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean. Ian Greer, senior research associate in ILR, will serve as director.

Cornell impacting New York State

The new program, modeled after the school’s Buffalo Co-Lab, will provide students with opportunities to engage with and work alongside local community organizations. Greer said he will formalize plans for the co-lab this summer while working on several local activities, including an Office of Engagement Initiatives project, and expects the program to formally begin late this year.

Greer has worked with the Tompkins County Workers’ Center on its living wage campaign, taught a class that paired Cornell students with Legal Assistance of Western New York to aid individuals with unemployment claims, and worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension examining the role of universities in local economic development.

“Ian Greer is really a perfect fit for this initiative,” said Ariel Avgar, associate dean for outreach at ILR. “He has the right combination of being a terrific scholar of work and labor, but he is also interested in making a real difference on the practical outreach front.

“In the short term, we’re looking to enhance our engagement with community organizations and with initiatives that are aligned with the ILR School land-grant mission,” Avgar said. “We can do that relatively quickly, in large part, thanks to the tremendous number of partnerships Ian has already forged.”

The Ithaca Co-Lab, said Avgar, will provide students with immersive real-world experiences; expand engaged research locally and across upstate New York; promote public dialogue among faculty, visitors to campus and local activists; and connect Ithaca residents to policymakers and researchers around the world.

“My hope,” Greer said, “is that we give policymakers, activists and advocates the research expertise and student energy that they can use to meet the needs of working people. My immediate goal … will be to draw upon resources to carry out more of this work.”

Avgar hopes to see Ithaca Co-Lab initiatives expand to cover all of central New York and forge partnerships with other outreach programs.

“Take, for example, our Criminal Justice and Employment Initiative,” Avgar said. “There are clear areas for collaboration between these programs, and I think that will be the case for many of our outreach initiatives.”

The Ithaca Co-Lab is one of two recent initiatives advancing the ILR School’s land-grant mission; an information hub on the ILR website focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work.

Julie Greco is a communications specialist with the ILR School.

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Abby Butler