Alumni Leaders

The School is known for producing top talent, and boasts employment relations leaders across functions and industries. Here are three graduates who are doing outstanding work in companies and industries that are not often featured in our on-campus recruiting. Read their stories, and hear how LER helped them prepare for amazing careers with unique companies.

Courtney Williams Headshot

Courtney Williams, MHRIR '07

Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Human Resources, NEXSTAR MEDIA INC.

Courtney (Page) Williams was named Chief Diversity Officer for Nexstar in June 2021. She is responsible for leading the Company’s efforts to expand diversity in hiring, promotion, and retention. Ms. Williams also serves as Vice President of Human Resources. Since September 2020, she has been responsible for providing guidance to company management teams on all human resources matters, directing staff on all human resources functions, and optimizing the efficient delivery of corporate HR support to all Nexstar employees in an effort.

Courtney joined Nexstar after serving in human resources leadership positions in various industries and at a variety of corporations such as GE, Eaton, Coca-Cola Refreshments, Gannett, and Tribune Media. Ms. Williams holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Hampton University, a master’s degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In 25 years, Nexstar has grown from a single station to become the nation’s largest local television and media company. Nexstar became the largest local television broadcast and digital media company in the nation with a portfolio of 199 full power owned or serviced stations in 116 markets reaching more than 68% of US television households. Its mission is to uphold the public interest principles of localism, diversity and trustworthy, unbiased broadcast journalism while supporting the evolving needs and interests of the local viewers, hometown businesses and community organizations that it serves.

Why Media?

“I love the fast paced, 24-hour nature of the business. I like reviewing talent contracts, being involved in union negotiations, going to trial and the fact that a lot of the issues that come up in the media industry involve current events. They involve how employees are reacting real time to various societal influences and we are reviewing how an employee has reacted to it either on screen or behind the scenes. Everything on television seems shiny and new, but in many ways there is a lot of room for growth in the HR space with media. I enjoy the fact that my voice matters as we set policies and procedures and find more ways to be an inclusive industry.”


“LER helped me in the media industry because it prepared me with finding a robust internship experience, and for help when I was looking for a change in positions as an alumna. I was hired in media because of my educational background at LER. My first media company recognized the program and knew that I would be able to craft policies, be flexible, adapt to an ever-changing medium, be trustworthy, and act in a professional manner. These are all skills that I learned at the School.”

Kevin Langford Headshot

Kevin Langford, MHRIR '04

Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at ExpressJet Airlines

Kevin joined ExpressJet in 2019. Prior to his role with ExpressJet, his experience was primarily in the oil and gas and manufacturing industries with companies including US Steel, PepsiAmericas, Hess, Equinor, and BHP. In addition to his Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Kevin has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, also from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He lives in Houston, Texas.

The Challenges of Aviation

The aviation industry, specifically ExpressJet, has endured quite the tumultuous ride since he joined in 2019. The organization was on path for 50% growth in employees, and in the process of acquiring 30% more aircraft to be the world’s largest flyer of the Embraer E-145, flying exclusively for United Airlines as United Express. United ceased all flying operations with ExpressJet due to the impact of COVID-19, leading ExpressJet to begin closing its doors permanently. After receiving authorization from United to operate independently in January 2021, ExpressJet transitioned into the role of start-up airline, preparing to launch both leisure and charter service in Q4 2021. Leading an organization that went from forecasting growth of over 5,000 employees and 150 aircraft, to being weeks from completely shut down, to now restarting operations in only two years has been both the most challenging and amazing experience in Kevin’s career.


“I cannot say enough amazing things about the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Without my degree, my career in Human Resources would have been dramatically different. The school provided me with not only a tremendous educational foundation, but opened several doors for me, especially during the early stages in my career. The degree provided immediate credibility in both and directly led to each role I had during the 10 years following graduation. Without those experiences and the career growth provided by the companies that interviewed me based primarily on my educational background, there is no way that I would be leading a Human Resources function today.

The job market for today’s early-career professional is even more competitive. With an exponentially increasing applicant pool, applicants need every advantage possible to stand out from the hundreds of other candidates. Possessing a master’s degree from the School of Labor and Employment Relations from the University of Illinois, a program well known as one of the best, if not the best, programs in the country year after year, combined with the success that our alumni have achieved in the function, definitely sets our early career graduates apart.”

Victor Cousins Headshot

Victor Cousins, MHRIR '03'

Senior People Business Partner, Apple

Victor Cousins, MHRIR ‘03, is currently a Senior People Business Partner for Apple, leading the People strategy for Apple Music, Beats by Dre, Shazam, and Podcasts. In his ten years with Apple, Victor has been a trusted Employee Relations advisor, partner, and problem solver for multiple lines of business including Engineering, Operations, Legal, Global Security, Real Estate & Development, and People, to name a few. The breadth and depth of these experiences have been instrumental to understanding Apple culture, developing business acumen, fostering relationships, and key to successfully navigating Apple’s unique environment.

After graduating from LER, he joined Sun Microsystems’ HR Leadership Development program and held various roles in the HR call center operations, compensation, location strategy, and was an HR Business Partner. Before joining Apple, Victor also led the HR Function for US employees at Curvature (formerly Network Hardware Resale).

Why Technology?

LER was a critical launchpad for Victor's decorated career in Human Resources in technology. "As HR professionals in tech, we are often faced with rapid transformation and innovation when managing human capital due to expansion and contraction, especially during times of great uncertainty, says Cousins. “The only thing that’s constant is change itself.”

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