Putting “Studies” First: Student Jobs at Cornell

Beebe Lake Sunset

A beautiful sunset on Beebe Lake.

by Anna Ravenelle ’17

I always knew, coming to Cornell, that I’d have to get a job on-campus; I worked for two years in high school and am paying for tuition on my own. Every little bit counts. My struggle was always that the jobs I found offered too few hours, citing that their reasoning for offering so few as helping me “put my studies first.” I agree, don’t get me wrong: school comes first. But when I worked fifteen to twenty hours in high school… seven hours wasn’t going to cut it. So, in October 2013, the fall of my freshman year, I got a job at the Statler Hotel that offered me sixteen hours a week. Then, this past semester, I added a second job, as a cashier at the Cornell Store.

Many people, when I tell them I hold two jobs on campus, look at me aghast. “How do you have time for schoolwork?” they ask. “When do you have time to see friends or join clubs?” they wonder. I now work anywhere from eight to twenty hours in any given week, in addition to a holding a full course load, my roles as an ambassador for the College of Arts & Sciences, an active member of a Greek organization and a weekly contributor to Slope Media’s online magazine. And I still get at least seven hours of sleep every night.

The best thing about having a job on campus is that both of my employers are incredibly understanding about putting my role of student first. Both of my places of work allow me to decide exactly when I want to work; I fit in shifts between classes or on weekend mornings when I would be otherwise sleeping in.

Having two jobs, among my other commitments, has forced me into better managing my time. Before I got my first campus job in Fall 2013, I had so much free time I would often leave my homework until the night before, doing seventy page readings overnight instead of pacing myself throughout the day/week, and developing overall very bad habits because I knew that I would still, technically, have time to do it later. Because I now have much less time for unimportant things, I have learned to schedule my homework in because if I don’t, I might not have the time for it later. This means that when it takes me less time than anticipated and I have a free hour, I can celebrate with the things I used to (wrongly) prioritize.

Having a job on campus, whether for extra spending money or to build up savings to pay tuition, is something that can easily fit into your schedule, like it fit into mine. Since acquiring my two jobs, I have become a more organized person, get my work done in a more timely manner, and have made a lot of great friends through my co-workers at both of these jobs. Whether commiserating through a slow shift or working as a team during a busy one, I can easily say that working on campus has helped me grow both as a person and as a student in my time here at Cornell.

CUEMS: Learning for Life

CUEMS Members at Club Fest, Fall 2014

CUEMS Members at Club Fest, Fall 2014

by Ari Bernstein ’15

During my first few weeks on campus as a freshman in the fall semester of 2012, I was both amazed and overwhelmed by the abundance of extra-curricular opportunities that Cornell provides its students. I attended Club Fest, in hopes of discovering a few clubs that resonated with my interests, yet walked away with more than twenty. As a pre-med student interested in the scientific world as well as interpersonal connections, patient care, and moral reasoning, I was particularly interested in activities that would allow me to interact with people in their times of need and contribute to the welfare of Cornell’s student and faculty population. Likewise, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone, gain valuable leadership experience, and obtain a skillset that would be useful in all facets of life. Something clicked for me when I attended that first information session for Cornell University Emergency Medical Service (CUEMS) as a new student on a big campus in the middle of an RPCC auditorium.

CUEMS is a completely student-run, Basic Life Support emergency response agency consisting of certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). Its members respond to 9-1-1 medical and traumatic emergency calls on the Cornell campus, operating 24/7 throughout the academic year and part time over the summer months. Additionally, the squad contains many American Heart Association certified CPR instructors, and offers countless CPR, first-aid, and alcohol awareness courses all across campus. I learned all about the squad in that information session, and decided to apply despite having absolutely no emergency medical experience, or knowledge of that particular world. This turned out to be one of the best decision that I would make as an undergraduate.

One of two CUEMS response vehicles.

During first semester, I acquired a substantial amount of clinical and interpersonal skills. I needed to be able to work efficiently with a team of student EMTs to maximize the quality of patient care while at the same time communicating openly and appropriately. I had to understand and utilize different styles of body posture, voice tone and volume, and eye contact to establish short-term relationships built on trust and professionalism. I was able to harness a sense of confidence in my clinical and operational skills through hours of practice and simulation.

CUEMS at Slope Day 2014.

CUEMS at Slope Day 2014.

The most incredible thing that our squad offers its members, aside from the clinical role that we serve on campus, is a strong opportunity for mentorship. The upperclassmen on CUEMS give up tremendous amounts of time to demonstrate and share their knowledge and skills with the new and incoming members. Within our squad, there is a universal understanding that teamwork is most effective when all members of a team are on the same page and possess confidence in their abilities, and through the mentorship roles, these upperclassmen ensure that all members of each team are extremely well-prepared to adapt to any given emergency situation. The new members benefit by learning the importance of a good and strong mentor, one who helps you reach your ultimate potential. I am fortunate to spend a lot of time with such an intellectually stimulating, responsible, and caring group of students and look forward to all that I will learn from them in my final year on campus as a senior.

New CUEMS members becoming CPR certified.

New CUEMS members becoming CPR certified.

From spending time on shift during the Slope Day concert and festivities to serving as a “New Member Buddy” (The name we give to current squad members who mentor assigned new members) helping newer members master their skills, I have learned the importance of giving back to the Cornell community and the real truth in the phrase, “you will only get out of it what you put into it.” While I have put in lots of time into CUEMS, I am excited and fueled by my desire to give and learn more.


Pride through Music: Cornell University Chorus

The 2014-2015 Cornell Women's Chorus

The 2014-2015 Cornell University Chorus

by Sarah Marie Bruno ’16

Coming from a relatively small high school, one thing that concerned me when I entered Cornell as a freshman was how I could possibly navigate such a huge school. While kept close company with my map for the first few weeks, I soon found that there are plenty of ways in which such a large school can rapidly come to feel like a small school.

Personally, I found my niche in the Cornell University Chorus, the all-female choral ensemble on campus. As someone who always had a passion for music, the Chorus gave me the opportunity to continue to grow as a musician and vocalist in the company of about 60 other women who share this passion. In addition to providing such fantastic musical and intellectual stimulation, Chorus has also allowed me to form strong friendships with people I may not have met otherwise. Like me, most of the Chorus members are not music majors—we come from all different majors, from all 7 undergraduate colleges within Cornell, and our members include both undergraduate and graduate students. Outside of regular rehearsals, we get together to sing songs and relax. We study together in our “home away from the dorms”—the basement of Sage Chapel, the stunningly beautiful building in which we rehearse and perform. We meet up with our male counterpart, the Glee Club, every Wednesday evening after rehearsal to sing Cornell’s “Evening Song” in a circle in Ho Plaza just as the sun is setting. We have become a small school within the large school—Chorus is more than just a class, but an integral part of our Cornell experience.

Singing Cornell's "Evening Song" on Ho Plaza

Singing Cornell’s “Evening Song” on Ho Plaza

Being part of the Chorus has also fueled my Cornell pride, in that both the Chorus and the Glee Club are major participants in many major university functions, including the annual New Student Convocation, Homecoming, and this year, the Grove Dedication as part of Cornell’s Sesquicentennial celebration. The Chorus even had the opportunity to sing Cornell Songs and the Alma Mater for Cornell’s president-elect, Elizabeth Garrett, Cornell’s first female president, during the ceremony in which her appointment was formally announced.

Members of the Chorus with President-elect Elizabeth Garrett

Members of the Chorus with President-elect Elizabeth Garrett

We also serve as ambassadors for Cornell when we perform across the country on our spring tour, and next year, when we will tour internationally. This fall, we performed with the Oxford Schola Cantorum when they visited Cornell, and we will even sing at Carnegie Hall in the spring!

While Chorus has been an immensely important part of my experience as a Cornell student, many of my friends who are not part of Chorus feel the same way about activities in which they participate, such as sports teams, a cappella, dance troupes, journalism, and student government. If you are not a singer, there is certainly a group at Cornell in which you can find the same sense of community as well as importance within the larger Cornell community that I found in the Chorus.

What to Do When You Are Abroad

A soccer game between Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago that I attended while in Argentina

A soccer game between Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago that I attended while in Argentina

by Jacob Brunell ’15

There seems to be a lot of information out there telling college students why it is such a great idea to study abroad, but far less advice on what to do after your plane lands and you find yourself thrust out in the middle of a smoggy, loud, foreign city. Indeed, a big part of why some people are hesitant about studying abroad is because they are not sure if they can adjust to life on a day-to-day basis in a foreign country where they don’t speak the language fluently, if they will be too far out of their comfort zone, if they will be able to make friends, etc.  I know this, because these were all feelings that I experienced before I took the leap and sent in my application to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina last fall.

It is for that reason that I’m sharing the advice below with you.  To be sure, not all of the points listed below will apply to everyone.  Nor is this a very comprehensive list.  After all, studying abroad is about learning how to figure out things and yourself, and experiencing things in your own way.   So with all that said, I’m hoping the following six pieces of advice can at least provide the potential study abroad student in Arts and Sciences with some useful insight that might make you more comfortable to take the leap and send in that application to Cornell Abroad:

Make friends with your classmates

  • Talk to people in your classes at your local university (as opposed to just people on your program) on the first day of class and every class after, because the sooner you start the sooner you’ll start making local friends.  Additionally, if there are other international students in your classes (not from the country you are studying in, but also not from the US), make an effort to talk to them as well.  As long as you’re getting to know people from different cultures/backgrounds you’ll have a fulfilling abroad experience.  Only talk to Americans, probably not so much…

Speak the local language

  • On a related topic to my last point, always start your conversations in the language of the place you are studying with everyone you meet, both inside of class and out.  If you don’t, locals will often just assume you don’t have any great desire to speak to them in their language, and will default to English (if they speak it).  You won’t learn anything that way!

Cultural Enrichment 

  • If you have the opportunity to go to an opera, theatre performance, art gallery, or dance class courtesy of your study abroad program, take it! You don’t know when you will have a chance to experience these again.
Protest at El Obelisco, a monument located in the middle of the world’s widest avenue, July 9 Street

Protest at El Obelisco, a monument located in the middle of the world’s widest avenue, July 9 Street

Travel… but not too much!

  • If you are going anywhere in Europe you are likely intending to travel a lot, and visit every city you’ve always dreamed about visiting.  While I’m sure you’ll have fun if you do that, the only way you really get to know a city and learn a language is by spending a significant amount of time there, so make sure you are not leaving every single weekend.
  • While we’re on the topic of traveling, when you do decide to travel, don’t just go to the major cities.  Go to the second or third-tier cities, the rural towns, the places where if you meet someone who speaks English it will be a surprise as opposed to an expectation.  Take a bus ride to a place neither you nor your friends have ever heard of.
Japanese Gardens, located in one of Buenos Aires’ many large parks

Japanese Gardens, located in one of Buenos Aires’ many large parks

Join a Sports Team

  • Joining a sports team at your local university is not only a great way to make local friends, but will also be a lot of fun. Even if you don’t think you’re very good at a sport, there will likely be some fairly relaxed, recreational teams you can join that aren’t too competitive.

Have fun, but don’t forget your obligations from home!

  • Thousands of miles away from home, it’s very easy to feel pretty removed from what’s going on back in the U.S. For that reason, if you don’t want to have issues with transferring credit, getting major credit, getting a job in the summer when you get back, or even forgetting an important family member’s birthday, take my word for it—stay on top of your stuff!  In all likelihood, the classes you will be taking abroad will require less of a time commitment than your Cornell classes, and if you’re lucky will be slightly easier as well. Just make sure you’re taking the right classes, hitting your requirements, and getting decent (if not good) grades, as they do show up on your transcript, but aren’t calculated into your GPA.


Keeping in Touch with Friends

2014_0954_011_select.jpgby Jillian Holch ’16

“Did you get my message? ‘Cause I looked in vain.”
“Can we see each other Tuesday if it doesn’t rain?”
“Look, I’ll call you in the morning or my service will explain.”

–        “Another Hundred People” from Company by Stephen Sondheim

In the busy world of extra curriculars, classes, homework, and job/internship applications, it’s a wonder how some of us manage to get any sleep or relaxation time done in college.  At Cornell, everyone loads so much on their plate that it’s easy to get carried away or caught up in the hustle and bustle of it all.  And that’s fine.  We all came to Cornell because we were overachievers that were passionate about many issues, which comes across in our resumes and course loads.  The one thing that we sometimes lose sight of though in all of this: friendship.

There is a saying that is on many sorority-related websites, which I tend to agree with: “I came to college to find my bridesmaids, not my husband.”  And hopefully in your time at college, you will be lucky enough to meet some of your best friends who you feel like you can be yourself around, who you grow up with, who you feel as though you can turn to for anything, and who you stay in touch with long after college ends.  When I was younger, I would go with my family to visit my mom’s (Cornell ’81) friend from college and spend the day with his family and play with his kids.  A girl in my sorority got married this summer, and her best friends from college were her bridesmaids.  As freshmen, when we meet our friends on our freshman floor, we hope that the bonds we make will stay long after freshman year ends.  However, whether it’s that we are too busy one semester with work, we go abroad a semester, we get into a relationship, or we simply stop living ten feet away from our best friends, we tend to lose touch with people that used to mean so much to us.  While obstacles do creep up every once in a while preventing us from spending all of our time with our friends, it is important to make an effort to maintain the friendships that mean something to us.  Here are some helpful tips to help you stay in touch with friends during college.

GROUP ME: When you have a group of friends, and everyone’s schedule is different, Group Me is a great way to chat with your friends.  Basically a mobile app that is a huge group message, I’ve seen Group Me used to communicate with up to 60 people.  If you are on Central Campus and you want to grab dinner with some friends, hit up the Group Me to see if anyone else is close to where you are.  A lot of my friends also have a Group Me for their freshman floor that they use as sophomores and juniors.  Through Group Me, you can organize monthly reunions with your friends that you haven’t seen in a while, whether this is a group dinner date at Collegetown Bagels, or going as a group to an event on or off campus.

COFFEE/LUNCH FRIEND DATE: This is meant for the close friends that haven’t seen each other in a while due to circumstance instead of choice.  Maybe you don’t live next door to each other any more, or maybe you’ve had a crazy academic/extracurricular schedule this semester, but you still really want to keep in touch.  Schedule weekly/bi-weekly/monthly coffee or lunch dates with your friend to catch up on each other’s lives.  You have to eat food every day, so why not spend one of those days each week with a friend?  There are some friends who won’t see each other for a while, but can pick up with each other as if nothing has changed.  Every Thursday at 4:30pm, Willard Straight has a Coffee Hour, where you get free coffee or tea for asking and answering a question to someone else there.  This semester I’ve been running into my roommate from last year there, and we always spend 10-15 minutes catching up on each other’s lives.  This isn’t as planned or organized as getting coffee at Libe or the Ivy Room, but it is still a small interaction that I value and appreciate, and is easy for many people to do.

STUDY TOGETHER: My best friend and I have been really busy this semester, and haven’t seen as much of each other as we would like, so yesterday she texted me and we decided to hang out and do homework together tomorrow night.  For the friends who you know you will see in the future, but are just too busy to make time for in the present, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you spend time together.  We will be sitting in silence doing homework, but I’m fine with that as long as we are together.  For the friends you have made at college where you can do anything and still have a good time, these are the most important friendships to maintain.  Whether you just schedule weekly study dates, or sit next to each other in the one class you share, make sure to spend time with them in any small or large way.

While I have only listed three ways to keep in touch with your friends, there are so many more ways to do so.  Also, make sure that you are the one extending the effort.  If you wait around for your friend to make plans with you to test them, they might not get the hint, resulting in less time spent together.  Be active.  Ask your friend when you are free and make plans.  There are dozens of events going on in Ithaca every week.  All you have to do is pick one and a good friend to spend your time with.

Halloween at the Johnson Museum

2014_0954_024.jpgby Kathy Xu ’16

Surrealism, magic, and wonder oh my! With First Year Parent’s weekend falling on a very festive Halloween at Cornell, there are many events both parents and students alike can participate in. One in particular that is sure to astound is exploring the ever expanding collection at the Johnson Museum.

With the largest collection of Asian art in all of NY State, excluding the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Johnson Museum offers a wonderful experience to its over 8,000 annual visitors. With 35,000 + pieces of art in its continually growing permanent collection, and over 10 special exhibitions per year, the Johnson Museum definitely has something for everyone.


Current temporary exhibits include Jie Boundaries, and Surrealism and Magic; both captivate audiences through innovative ways.

On Halloween Cornell’s very own Undergraduate docents were able to provide students and their families a brief 1-hour tour that showcased some of the museum’s prowess. As a new member of the docent team, I was thrilled to give my first inclusive tour on Halloween.

In keeping with the Halloween theme, I began my tour with the Surrealism and Magic exhibition, particularly highlighting certain pieces that relate to the supernatural. Pieces of interest included Tarot cards, manifestos, and the like. My personal favorite, Melusine and the Great Transparents, showcases the combination of mythology and realistic aspects of the United States landscape. Museum3Especially enthralling is the actual process in which the artist created this particular piece of artwork. The painter, Kurt Seligmann projected images and forms of cracked glass, then traced the intricate patterns to create the twisted and tornado like shapes within the painting. When I first saw the piece, the tornado like figures immediately reminded me of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy is sucked away by the tornado into the magical world of Oz. In a way the Johnson Museum itself transports visitors to the magical world of art.

I could only show so much to the visitors in the 1-hour period of time, however each individual showed genuine interest in the museum and wanted to explore more of its contents. With the limited time, I made sure to cover each floor, ending the tour on the fifth floor. I advise anyone who visits the Johnson Museum to go to the fifth floor which not only houses the Asian art collection, but also includes a beautiful view of the surrounding campus. Visitors are always amazed.


Besides these specialized events, the Johnson Museum offers both students and the public various resources throughout the regular academic session. Interested in making origami and how mere folds of a piece of paper can transform a 2-dimnsional sheet into a 3-dimensional work of art? Are you curious about the intricate mastery of shadow puppetry? If so, check out Workshop Wednesdays where students can partake in creating these wonderful crafts. Ever wondered what it’s like to stay a night at the museum? How about attending the Johnson’s After Hours, filled with performances, tours, and other activities? Most importantly these workshops and events are free; so if you are a current, prospective, or future student I wholeheartedly encourage all of you to enjoy everything the Johnson Museum and Cornell University has to offer!

I’ll see you at the Johnson Museum!

Chimpanzees, Homo sapiens, Daffodils and More

by Stacy Ndlovu

I suppose something most of us never think about is that geneticists have found that we – humans – are 98 percent chimpanzee. Granted, there are also some geneticists who have done research with results that challenge this statistic. But that’s just the beauty of science, isn’t it? In our pursuit of knowledge about the world around us, we can challenge scientific discoveries.

By now you are probably thinking I’m a science whiz – probably a Bio major. Why else would you be reading about chimpanzees? Well, I am a double major in Government and French. I care about humanitarianism, international politics and diplomacy. However, as a student in the College of Arts and Sciences I have to fulfill the Physical and Biological Sciences (PBS) and Mathematics and Quantitive Reasoning (MQR) requirement. Since my freshman year, this requirement has been a source of great anxiety for me, so I put it off for as long as I could. But as a first semester junior, I could no longer put it off.

As I was searching through the approved courses for a class that fulfilled a PBS requirement, I came across a very interesting title: The Natural History of Chimpanzees and the Origin of Politics. It seemed almost too good to be true: a biological anthropology class that was somehow related to politics? When I read the course description, I was sold:

“… [T]he class will focus on our now extensive knowledge of chimpanzees derived from many ongoing, long-term field studies. Topics of particular interest include socialization, alliance formation and cooperation, aggression within and between the sexes, reconciliation, the maintenance of traditions, tool use, nutritional ecology and social organization, territorial behavior, and the importance of kin networks. The question of whether apes should have rights will also be explored.”

This course seemed to encompass everything I cared about – the causes of war, the advocacy for human rights and fostering cooperation and understanding between people. Furthermore, it would help enhance my knowledge of primate behavior – I had always heard that chimpanzees are our closest ancestors and I finally had the chance to find whether this was true or not!  And so, I added it to my schedule for Fall 2014.

Now that I am two and half months into this class, I have not been disappointed. The professor is engaging, passionate and very helpful.  The material is absolutely fascinating. A friend asked me why it matters to learn about our connection to other organisms. My answer – through this class I’ve learned that it is that connection that makes us care to conserve the habitat of chimpanzees. Once we see the humanity in everything, we start to care.  It’s a gem of a class taught by a gem of a professor.

PS. You may also find it interesting that we are 35% daffodil!

Writing in the Majors: An Exploration across Disciplines

2014_0954_014_select.jpgby Julia Montejo ’17

Like most freshmen, I came to Cornell with one major in mind, yet before orientation week ended, I was already set on not pursuing my original major. I knew I wanted something interdisciplinary, a major that would integrate my passions for policy, social studies, and environmental science. After some deep digging, I decided to explore the idea of majoring in Biology and Society. While I was extremely excited to start my sophomore year with an actual intended major, I was also a bit nervous—I was taking two biology classes at once while having taken a full year break from science courses.

On the first day of BIOEE 1610: Ecology and the Environment, our professor introduced us to Chris Dalton, the Writing in the Majors TA. Writing in the Majors (WIM), Chris explained, was an opportunity to explore the course material through a writing intensive section. Writing in the Majors is a program coordinated by the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, which states on its website that the program is “based on the premise that language and learning are vitally connected in every field.” WIM provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to use writing in many different courses across different levels of their curriculum. This course option for Ecology and the Environment immediately sounded appealing to me: I love writing and I am very passionate about science education and communication. I took the opportunity to fill out an application for the WIM section, and I was ecstatic when I received an email saying I would be enrolled in it.

photo (7)

My trepidations about being in biology courses at Cornell diminished the first time I went to my WIM section. First, Chris explained that our version of the course would have extra assignments and more readings, but we were being evaluated more on the content of our writing assignments than our tests. We would be engaging in discussions and looking at ecological and environmental questions from a scientific lens, but we would be given the opportunity to look into how these connect to social and political issues and our own lives.

Only half of the semester has gone by, but I have already been impacted by Writing in the Majors and have grown immensely as a science communicator. In class, we take part in lively discussions and debates, present on our perspectives on scientific papers, and work through course concepts we find interesting in groups. The highlight of the course, in my opinion, is our class blogs. Throughout the course, we work on written assignments that explore what we have learned in lecture. For example, we were tasked with answering the question “Should Humans Eat More Bugs?” by using concepts like carrying capacity and trophic efficiency. I developed my essay by writing about my experiences eating insects while growing up in Guatemala. Likewise, every student engages their own personal experiences while explaining course concepts, and then posts them to their personal class blog. We peer edit and comment on one another’s work, both to improve our understanding of scientific concepts and to improve our writing.

WIM Sample Blog Post

This course has embodied what it is to have an integrated, well-rounded education. When I enrolled in Ecology and the Environment, I expected to learn about species interactions and calculations for predicting population growth. While learning these concepts and more, I have also learned how to be a better writer, think critically, and connect ecological concepts to other fields, like economics and policy. I have questioned the production efficiency of an insect not just in the terms of ecology, but also in respect to how their high production efficiency can impact a whole culture’s nutrition. Writing in the Majors has strengthened my passion for an interdisciplinary examination of the environment, and has solidified my pursuit of a Biology and Society major. It has helped me discuss important ecological concepts with my peers, in majors ranging from government to biological sciences, and I have been able to learn from all of their unique perspectives. I have gained strengths in writing about scientific concept in a way that is interesting for the general public. More importantly, I have learned that one of the most valuable things about a Cornell education is that we are taught even as early as our introductory courses that the issues in our world are not compartmentalized to the boxes of academic disciplines. Rather, the pressing issues we face are best examined, and resolved, by connecting the dots and embracing the thoughts of many disciplines and perspectives.


Bill Gates and his Visit to Cornell

by Lisa Liu, ’15

On October 1, 2014 Bill Gates came to Cornell University to give a speech and answer student questions about the future of higher education. When you hear the name Bill Gates, a whole string of words comes to mind. Successful. Innovative. Philanthropic. During the conversation, Gates highlighted his philanthropic work and tailored the conversation to reflect his vision of the future. Philanthropy, by service to others, garners support to address and solve some of the largest issues facing the world today. During the conversation Gates discussed the initiatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, focusing on two areas: global healthcare and the U.S. education system.

Bill Gates talks to President David Skorton.

Bill Gates talks to President David Skorton.

When Gates first wondered what the biggest philanthropic effort to pursue globally was, he concluded that certain aspects of healthcare is the “greatest injustice,” and therefore the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to eradicate and provide more accessible treatment for certain diseases. The next most pertinent task of the foundation is to address the problems that U.S. K-12 schools face as well as issues in higher education. In Gates’ words, education and health problems are connected because they are two gigantic sectors of the economy where the market mechanism does not really apply. In other words, it is hard to place a value on being healthy or educated.

In this conversation about philanthropy and his vision of the future, it is evident that Gates makes giving back the core of his success. Gates donated $25 million to build Gates Hall for information technology studies on Cornell’s campus, which demonstrates his commitment to developing young minds to reflect needs in the Age of Technology.

In addition to discussing these two topics, Gates also provided valuable life advice about what it means to be successful and his road to success:

  1. Someone asked what is the best advice Gates has for the “next Bill Gates.” He jokingly responded, “Well, you have to think of something that I didn’t think of.” Examining his statement speaks to what he believes is important to success: an entrepreneurial spirit, thinking outside of the box, and exploring uncharted territory—as well as the drive to make your dream become reality. This is true about Cornell, which has a working space called PopShop through a partnership with the Ithaca community to develop entrepreneurial ideas.

    The recently-completed Gates Hall now houses the departments of Computer and Information Science.

    The recently-completed Gates Hall now houses the departments of Computer and Information Science.

  2. While discussing the future of higher education, Gates noted that although information has been digitalized and therefore become more accessible, the problems with education have not diminished, and if nothing else, have only taken on different forms. He said, “Education isn’t about the knowledge being available; very few just sit down and read a book.” What I took away from this point was that intellectual inquiry paired with passion to learn about something new goes a long way for being successful.
  3. A student asked what students and universities could do to actually have meaningful international contributions instead of just having a cultural exchange that doesn’t always have a tangible impact. Gates responded by emphasizing that a meaningful international experience is one that engages in both directions, that an international experience can pay back socially by turning the person with that experience into a thoughtful advocate who volunteers and makes a difference. Cornell has many international engagement programs, which range from spring break trips through Alternative Breaks to study abroad and more.

Last but not least, Gates discussed what he did to stay motivated and focused to become successful. His basic advice is to pick a topic that you like and to be comfortable with reading and learning new things. He said, “Work on something that you love and where there’s a sense of progress”—because with genuine interest, curiosity about the world, and dedication to your own pursuits, anything is possible.

Reflections from a Cornell Senior

by Lauren Avery, ’15

For many of you reading this, college graduation may seem too far away to worry about. If you’re still a prospective student, you’re looking forward to enjoying the thrill of being independent in a new place, and if you’re a current student, you feel like you will be a student forever.

I’ve felt this way for all four of my undergraduate years, and even as a senior, graduation was never on my radar. I’m currently studying abroad in Beijing, and trying all of the different varieties of dumplings has been enough to keep me occupied for much of the semester. Recently, though, my mom was discussing my family’s travel arrangements in Ithaca during commencement weekend.

“This time next year,” she said, “you’ll be out in the real world! How exciting!”

A view of Libe Slope

A view of Libe Slope

That moment was when the reality of my impending graduation hit me, and I can’t say I’m ready for it. I can’t fathom saying goodbye to Cornell, and the term “real world” gives me the shivers. What on earth should I do after I graduate?

To me, the only options for post-graduation activities were finding a job or going to graduate school. From there, graduate school was broken down into law school, business school, getting a Master’s degree, or getting a Ph.D. What path should I choose? What does my undergraduate degree from Cornell prepare me for? Would each choice determine what I did for a career for the rest of my life?

The answer, thankfully, is no. In the job market, lateral movement within one field and complete jumps into different fields are possible. As for graduate school, while it is true that you should be fairly comfortable with being a doctor if you go to medical school or with being a lawyer if you go to law school, the boundaries are not as rigid as you might think. Individuals from all academic backgrounds can pursue rewarding careers in academia and in research.

Still, deciding upon a path after graduation is not the same as being an undergraduate student. Think about when you decided on an undergraduate major, or, if you have not yet declared, think about how you chose your intended field of study. If you’ve done your research, you know that changing majors at Cornell is not only easy and common, but expected. I myself have gone unofficially through four completely different majors. As an undergraduate, you are not expected to know definitively what you want to study, and that’s okay. One of the main purposes of your undergraduate career is to allow you to explore many academic opportunities and find what makes you happiest. One of my favorite things about Cornell is that undergrads can take courses in whatever field draws their eye, from cognitive psychology to Quechua.

Cornell's Arts Quad, the home of the College of Arts and Sciences

Cornell’s Arts Quad, the home of the College of Arts and Sciences

Once you are graduating, though, the expectations are slightly different. Having chosen a field of study at your undergraduate institution and studied it thoroughly for anywhere between two and four years, most employers and graduate schools expect you to have somewhat of a better sense of what you want to do. In job interviews, this manifests itself in the ubiquitous “where do you see yourself in five years?” question, and for graduate school applications, it forms your Statement of Purpose.

“How will I know what to answer when they ask me what I want to do?” you might ask.

You’ll know. Trust me, you will. You might not know exactly what law firm you want to work at or which corporation offers the best benefits, but all of those semesters as an undergraduate you spent exploring, learning, and maturing will point you in a direction. It might be unexpected or completely different from how you started as an eager young freshman, but you’ll have direction. You’ll have a sense of what you want to do, and, more importantly, why.

For me, since I had declared my CAPS major, I had always had a vision of me being a professor, discussing Chinese-American relations from a podium in a lecture hall filled with students. The more I researched possible options for me post-graduation, the more academia seemed to suit me. As someone who could happily be a student forever, graduate school made me more and more excited. I decided to apply to a few doctoral programs, and I should hear back in a few months. If you had told my freshman year self, still seriously considering being a pre-med Astronomy major, that I would graduate as a CAPS student, go on to earn my Ph.D., and be happy about these choices, I wouldn’t have believed it.

The reason that I am sharing my experience on the A&S Ambassadors Blog is to urge you to start thinking, right now, about where you see yourself in 5, 10, and 15 years. Don’t be unwilling to change this goal over the course of your undergraduate career because you will grow and develop as a student, but just begin to think. As an undergraduate, there are so many resources and people available to support you and guide you through the process, but you are the only one who can choose what makes you happy.

As you know from undergraduate applications, planning the next chapter of your life takes a great deal of hard work and diligent preparation. It’s never too early to start thinking about what makes you happy, not what makes your parents happy or what makes you the most money. Before you know it, you’ll be wearing a cap and gown at your convocation. As you reflect on your undergraduate experience and everything you saw, did, and learned, you’ll want to be able to look to the future not with certainty, but with confidence about the adventures that lay ahead. This confidence about being ready for the “real world” is what makes your precious undergraduate years so valuable, and even if it feels farther away than you can comprehend, you’ll get there, I promise.