Spotlight on: BIOG4990: Independent Undergraduate Research in Biology

This week, junior Solveig Van der Vegt writes about her experience conducting undergraduate research as a member of the Fromme Lab. Through the Office of Undergraduate Biology, Solveig and many other Cornell students are able to earn academic credit while also working on their own independent projects.

By: Solveig Van der Vegt ’18

BIOG4990 is the class students take to get credit for working in a lab, in my case the Fromme Lab in the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology. Out of all the classes I have taken so far at Cornell, Independent Research has definitely been one of my favorites. First, it provides me with a wonderful opportunity to do research long-term and to see if it is something that I might want to do in the future. Because I have considered academic research as one of the career paths that I may want to pursue, I’ve really appreciated the chance to work in the Fromme Lab and get credit for it. I’ve been able to get a small taste of what it is like to work in a lab doing all kinds of different experiments, including fluorescence microscopy, DNA cloning and fluorescence assays. I’ve also been able to meet people in all different stages of the academic career path. I work directly with a graduate student, but I also have a lot of contact with my lab’s Principal Investigator (PI), the institute technicians, and postdocs. I’ve truly been able to get an inside view of what the academic world is like.

Bench at Fromme Lab

Here’s a picture of my bench in the Fromme Lab!

BIOG4990 is also a nice class to take because it allows me to have something different in my schedule without compromising on the amount of credits I’m taking. In between all the lectures and discussion sections that I am in, working in a lab for 10 hours a week is quite refreshing. Of course, I am also taking laboratory courses like Genetics Lab or Experimental Organic Chemistry for my major, but it’s not the same: when I work in the Fromme Lab, I don’t know what the outcome of my experiments is going to be because they have not been performed 300 times before by other students and been extensively tested by TA’s. It makes it more exciting to feel like I’m actually looking for something new that nobody has discovered yet. For me, working in the Fromme Lab through BIOG4990 allows me to contribute to the growing pool of biological knowledge in my own way.

Spotlight on: GOVT 3012: The Politics of Poverty in the U.S.

In her post this week, junior Isabel Caro discusses the importance of working alongside and listening to people with differing opinions. She explains how her government class this semester provides ample space for this, while also encouraging the type of critical thinking she feels defines a College of Arts & Sciences education.

By: Isabel Caro ’18

Here I am reading outside of the Cornell In Washington building while in D.C. Our capital ironically has a large population living at or below the poverty line.

Here I am reading outside of the Cornell In Washington building while in D.C. Our capital ironically has a large population living at or below the poverty line.

As a Government major, I am always looking to learn about and discuss controversial topics in relation to how our country operates – more specifically, I’ve tried to seek out classes about social and racial inequality in America. This semester, Government 3012: The Politics of Poverty in the U.S. is a great fit for me. At the first lecture of the year, Professor Jamila Michener informed the class that we would be prompted to deliberate over topics that we may find uncomfortable – and she encouraged that. In addition, she admitted that many of our questions and doubts about the politics of poverty in America would remain unanswered at the end of the class; this was a breath of fresh air to me. At that moment, I was reminded of what an education at Cornell really means: critical thinking, honest discussions, and an accumulation of skills that enable us to continue to think for ourselves beyond the classroom. We are encouraged to grow, to question, and to be curious. After gaining knowledge and information, we can then make our own inferences about certain topics.

In the case of GOVT 3012, we are mainly concerned with the relationship between poverty and the underlying politics behind it. So far in the course, we’ve discussed inequality in wealth and education, the history of poverty, “the culture of poverty,” our social contexts and poverty, and how race and poverty interact, and we definitely don’t always come to a common consensus when discussing these big issues! I firmly believe, however, that it’s important to share ideas and thoughts with people who don’t agree with you. Republicans and Democrats alike should have uncomfortable conversations in order to arrive at a better understanding of public policy. Poverty is a big issue – we have over 47 million people living in poverty in this country and a disparate number of them are people of color. Why is that? It’s beyond a tough question to answer but we can begin to break down certain aspects of society to fascinating levels in an attempt to understand the underlying problems. Classes at Cornell have so much to offer intellectually and I cannot wait to find out what else is in store for me this semester.

Truly “Any Person, Any Study”: Finding Meaning in Ezra Cornell’s Motto Through the French Department

This October, we’ve decided to showcase Ambassadors’ experiences “Easing Back into Classes.” We asked our Ambassadors to tell us about a class they’re taking or have taken that they think the world deserves to know about. Sophomore Emma Bryan starts us off with a post about her experience taking a wide range of college French classes (perhaps rivaling her experience with Cornell peanut butter – check out her blog post from last semester here).

By: Emma Bryan ’19

Reading French primary sources

Here I am reading fascinating primary sources about the French Revolution outside of Terrace Cafe on a beautiful Ithacan day.

Since the fifth grade, I have never not taken a French class.  I began with basic language classes where seemingly complex grammar rules were drilled into my head, and slowly but surely I started to have a semblance of competency in this beautiful language.  My accent was atrocious, but I was slowly learning from my native-speaker teachers, and as my language skills developed, my interest in French culture grew.  In high school, I was fortunate enough to take many challenging classes with stellar teachers who had high expectations for me and my peers, had a French exchange student for a few weeks, and went to Paris to stay with this same student to have a language and culture immersion experience.  Ultimately when I arrived at Cornell, I had the French skills necessary to bypass all language-learning classes, and I immediately got to dive into the more advanced classes that focused on French culture and history rather than the language itself.

For every semester that I have been in college, my French classes have always been my favorites.  They are typically small classes ; coming from an all-girls high school where I graduated with ninety-three others, I thrive in seminars because they are what I’ve had for my entire academic life up until this point.  Not only are the class sizes ideal, but I love basically all things French, and I never find myself bored when immersed in the language and culture. The first class that I took was French 2320, Introduction to Francophone Film and Culture, and it was an amazing introduction to college French classes. We met twice a week and discussed films that we were assigned to watch, and we studied how French film techniques evolved over time while providing commentary on the political and social climate in France and its colonies. Last semester, my French class was French 3400, a class on the French identity in modern times: it was essentially a French current events class, and we had discussions on recent terror attacks in France, among other things, and learned about politics, racial identities, and global interactions regarding France.

I have had amazing experiences in all of the French classes that I’ve taken thus far, but I’d have to say that the most engaging class I’ve taken is the one that I am currently in. This semester, I’m taking French 2860, a class on the French Revolution, and it is hands-down my favorite class.  It’s cross-listed with history, so it is instructed in English, but it still counts towards the French major or minor!  The professor, Paul Friedland, is one of the most intriguing that I’ve had since coming to Cornell, and I have no problem paying attention, and honestly getting personally invested, in the happenings of lecture.  While the topic of the class is already incredibly fascinating, the way in which the material is presented is almost in a storyteller-like fashion; Professor Friedland really makes the French Revolution come alive for me. I’m already excited to see what I can take next, because no matter what you are interested in—whether that be French, physics, interpretive dance, etc.—there will always be a decent variety of classes pertaining to those interests with stellar professors who are truly passionate about what they are teaching.

When the Summer Ending is Just the Beginning: “Coming Home” to Cornell

The last member of our Arts & Sciences Ambassadors E-board is Kasey Han ’18. After spending most of her summer conducting molecular and cellular neuroscience research at Stanford University, Kasey returned to campus early for training to be a Student Assistant on West Campus. It’s fitting that Kasey’s post closes out our September collection just after Homecoming Weekend here in Ithaca – her post strongly emphasizes how it feels to leave summer behind and “return home” to Cornell!

By: Kasey Han ’18, Recruitment Co-Coordinator

Niagara Falls

Here I am (second from left) with three other members of the Cook House staff on our annual trip to Niagara Falls!

Returning to campus this year, I felt like a kindergartener excited for their first day of school all over again. This August, I started a new position as a Student Assistant in West Campus’s Alice H. Cook House. Amid all of the prelims and problem sets looming just weeks away, I was thrilled to step foot back onto transiently sunny Ithacan soil.

Three weeks before classes began, I moved into my new dorm room. I strung up my twinkly lights and laid down my fuzzy rug. I plastered feel-good posters and important event flyers around the building. As an SA (another name for Resident Advisor) my goal this year is to make my residents feel as welcome and at home as possible.

Cook Community Engagement Course

House Professor Shorna Allred leads a discussion with Cook residents as a part of the Cook Community Engagement Course.

West Campus is a truly unique place to live, in that each of the five residence halls is a hub for both living and learning. Like the four Harry Potter houses, each student has a home base that emphasizes both intellectual and social engagement. Through a variety of programs, we connect our residents with professors and community leaders that work in fields of their interest, as well as with their neighbors to build community and a sense of “home.”

After an early August move-in, our training schedule was a whirlwind of fun. The first half consisted of staff bonding and Cook House missions. We rented out a massive house off campus and spent time discussing our vision for Cook House, strategizing how to engage residents in a living-learning community, and all around becoming better leaders. Once the sun set, we broke out the card games, challenging each other in Mafia and Taboo. By the end of our retreat, it was clear that we Cook House staff had formed our own family and that the rest of the year would only get better.

welcome back cake

When the West Campus Dining Halls opened back up, we got to enjoy this delicious “Welcome Back” cake!

The second half of training explored handling common and uncommon situations that may arise when you work in the same place that you live. We discussed everything from roommate conflicts and academic stress to bias, sexual assault, and mental health. While each day was necessarily emotionally and mentally heavy, I felt much better equipped by the end to look after my residents and assume a leadership position.

Regardless of what we study and how we spend our free time, every Cornellian is excited for the start of a new year. We may have reservations about leaving behind our easy summer routines, but the underlying emotion is always eager anticipation for what the next year at Cornell holds in store. I think this universality is because, no matter where we come from, coming back to Cornell means returning home.

West Campus

A view of West Campus from Libe Slope.

From One Hill to Another: How I Spent my Summer in Washington, D.C.

This week, junior Sam Cohen ’18 discusses how her sociology major at Cornell (on East Hill) inspired her to apply for a summer internship in Washington, D.C., (on Capitol Hill), and how that experience helped her discover a new appreciation for politics and government.

By Samantha Cohen ’18, Social Chair

Behind me, you can see the White House!

Behind me, you can see the White House!

Before this past summer, if you had asked my opinion on the latest Democratic vs. Republican squabble, I would try to change the subject of conversation as quickly as possible… or fake an excuse and run away. I had never paid much attention to politics – yes, I had registered to vote the week I turned 18, but that was about the extent of my relationship with the workings of our federal government.

Here I am (in the middle) with my George Washington University roommates in front of the Capitol Building!

Here I am (in the middle) with my George Washington University roommates in front of the Capitol Building!

This is why it initially seems a bit strange that I spent eight weeks this summer in Washington D.C. Whereas many of the other college students I met there were all government, political science, or international relations majors, there I was, a sociology major, the odd one out. It was actually my major, however, that drove me to the nation’s capital in the first place. Throughout my sociology classes, one underlying theme has arisen again and again: inequality. Hoping to explore issues of inequality outside of the classroom, I applied and was accepted to a six-week social justice program that places college students in non-profits throughout the D.C.-Metro area. On the first Monday of June, I woke up in a GW dorm and walked to the office of the National Council on Independent Living, a cross-disability advocacy organization, to start my first day as the policy intern.

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in National Council on Independent Living's annual March & Rally!

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in National Council on Independent Living’s annual March & Rally!

By the end of my first week, I had been to two coalition meetings, three meetings on the Hill, and had called the offices of all 435 representatives (who knew there were so many!?). What struck me most was how well I was beginning to understand what all this policy “stuff” was about. Sure, some of the legal jargon went right over my head, but every bill discussed in these hearings emerges from real people with real every-day problems. Nearly 20% of the American population has a disability of some kind, so most of us probably have a cousin, friend, aunt, or grandfather with some kind of disability; disability rights affect everyone. Politics was no longer this untouchable, scary concept I wasn’t experienced enough to understand or engage with. It was now about listening to the concerns of different groups of people and working to find a direct, comprehensive, and attainable response.

A view of the beautiful sunrise behind the Supreme Court Building.

A view of the beautiful sunrise behind the Supreme Court Building.

Fortunately, I was also able to spend lots of time outside of the office and explore many other cool parts of the city. DC’s streets are lined with endless treasures: the Smithsonian Museum, national monuments, food trucks, art galleries, Georgetown Cupcakes, etc. Almost all of the museums and national buildings offer free admission (music to any college student’s ears)! One of the coolest things I did was pull an all-nighter on the sidewalk outside of the Supreme Court to go inside at 7am and hear the Justices announce their final decisions on the last day of the session. I always knew I’d put my Cornell late-night studying skills to use!

6 weeks flew by and my program had come to an end. It was then that I decided I was not yet ready to leave this amazing city and decided to extend my internship for an extra two weeks. I felt that I still had so much more to learn, and I woke up every morning eager to see what was next. All in all, after 8 weeks, I was definitely excited to return to Cornell with a new awareness and appreciation for how our political organizations discuss local or national issues that affect so many of us. It’s safe to say I will no longer be running away the next time someone initiates a conversation topic I know little to nothing about; maybe this time, I will be the one asking the questions!

Interning in NYC: How I Spent my Summer Working for Carat

This week, our secretary, Information Science major Meg Shigeta ’17 , gives us a window into her summer experience as an intern in New York City. Enjoy!

By: Meg Shigeta ’17, Events Coordinator/Records Keeper

I met a lot of great people this summer, including my fellow intern Kelly (right).

I met a lot of great people this summer, including my fellow intern Kelly (right).

This summer I had the opportunity to work in the media industry as an intern for the Dentsu Aegis Network, specifically for the Carat New York office. One of my favorite aspects of the job was working with the other interns at the office to create a media plan that analyzed specific consumer groups. In order to do this, we researched the various daily schedules, habits, cultural beliefs and values held by certain demographics to get a better sense of who they truly were, especially in comparison to the general population. After doing this, we were then able to create strategic suggestions on ways to better target these groups. One of my favorite aspects of the job was learning how to use the company’s various research tools in order to complete this project. While these tools provided us with rich data, it was up to us to determine how to view and organize this data so that our presentation told a cohesive story. As a result of this, I learned about the importance of perspective. Depending on how you view a statistic — whether it be the scale you use or the amount of surrounding context you allow — quite different interpretations can arise as a result. Consequently, it is crucial to continually keep in mind your purpose, and to always consider the fact that different people often lend different sets of eyes to a singular set of data. This project was especially fun because I got to experience daily life in the industry, and also because it was for a real-time client. I really felt like I was a valuable member of the company!

Here I am with the other interns (L to R): Carolyn, me, Jillian, Lauren, Rachel, Brett, and Rachel.

Here I am with the other interns (L to R): Carolyn, me, Jillian, Lauren, Rachel, Brett, and Rachel.

Not only did I get to work with data this summer, but I also got to work alongside two dedicated mentors. Both taught me many valuable lessons that I aim to uphold during my last year as an undergraduate here at Cornell, the most powerful being the importance of clear communication. Although it sounds cliché, my mentors constantly stressed the importance of communication in working and collaborating with others, and this is indeed critical to making sure tasks get completed and operations are optimized. This combination of takeaways not only helped me to become a more efficient worker, but also a more nuanced thinker, and as a result I can certainly characterize this summer as being a success!carat

Checking Off #31 on the List of 161 Things to Do at Cornell: How I Spent my Summer in Ithaca

Welcome back! Here at the Arts & Sciences Ambassadors, we’re easing back into the swing of the fall semester. What with the warm weather and the long weekend, though, we can’t quite shake off the feel of the summer, and so we’ve chosen to devote our first blog posts to that very topic: what did we do this summer? Throughout September, we will be posting blogs written by the four members of our executive board. I start us off this month with a nostalgic look back at my summer spent here in Ithaca.

By: Emma Korolik ’17, Recruitment Co-Coordinator and Media Manager

When my friend Bridget (on the right) visited from home, I knew I had to take her birdwatching at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology.

When my friend Bridget (on the right) visited from home, I knew I had to take her birdwatching at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology.

This past summer, I went hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and running, explored an herb garden and went bird watching, attended free outdoor concerts, watched a meteor shower in the middle of the night, sang karaoke for the first time, finally figured out how to throw a Frisbee, took a summer class, started my honors thesis, and made new friends from across the country and around the world – all while (and mainly because of my position) serving as a resident advisor (RA) for college students staying at Cornell for the summer months like me. Anyone who has stayed a summer at Cornell is quick to tell their friends to do the same (it’s even on the official list of 161 Things to Do at Cornell), and now I’m doing my part by telling all of you!

Sarah Gaylord '18 and I pose in our kayak before paddling out to Cayuga Lake.

Sarah Gaylord (right, CALS ’18) and I pose in our kayak before paddling out to Cayuga Lake. Photo credits: Kim Anderson.

Ithaca is on full display in the summer –flowers are blooming, the local wildlife bravely explore campus, and this summer, a whole new species of college student – the Pokemon trainer – has stayed out all day (and sometimes all night!). For those of us less interested in catching a Pikachu on the Arts Quad, there are over 150 waterfalls within 10 square miles around Ithaca, and countless state parks that are open to the public for hiking and swimming during the warm summer months. For our retreat at the end of RA training in May, for example, the other RAs and I took advantage of the multitude of outdoor activities on offer around Ithaca and went kayaking on Cayuga Lake.

Serving as a resident advisor was both challenging and rewarding – and not just because I got to go kayaking for free! As Summer Sessions RAs, my coworkers and I served as peer advisors, mediators, rules enforcers, friends, and community builders in Flora Rose House and Hans Bethe House on West Campus from June through mid-August. While for most students, the residence halls served as a place to relax, Rose and Bethe Houses were our places of work; our bedrooms could double as an office at any time of day or night. Yet, being an RA was also a blast – I was able to meet so many new people, especially through our scheduled series of programs, which were specifically designed to foster that sense of community.

(L to R) Sarah Gaylord '18, Alyssa Elezye '17, and I pose with homemade props during our "Harry Potter" party on July 31st.

(L to R) Sarah Gaylord (CALS ’18), Alyssa Elezye (CALS ’17), and I pose with homemade props during our “Harry Potter” party on July 31st. Photo credits: Catherine Wei (CALS ’18).

Some of the programs we created this summer were more passive, like watching the Olympics Opening Ceremony and celebrating J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter’s birthday with a Harry Potter party and movie screening, but some were more active – like running a 5K through the Cornell Plantations, hiking and swimming in Buttermilk Falls State Park, and whitewater rafting in Watertown, NY, on the Black River.

Arguably the best boat to float down the Black River - I'm at the top, second from the left!

Arguably the best boat to float down the Black River – I’m at the top, second from the left!

Not only did these programs foster community just among the residents, however; by supporting the other RAs and attending their programs, I gained a new set of friends myself. Because RAs are asked to do and be so much for their residents, it makes sense that the people I worked with were all incredibly caring, intelligent, and interesting individuals. Yet, I didn’t expect to find a group so willing to binge watch Netflix’s Stranger Things during a thunderstorm, try power lifting at the gym, introduce me to salsa dancing at Agava, sing “Alexander Hamilton” at karaoke, play ridiculous games of Quelf (look it up!), or eat endless amounts of Indian food at Mehak. I’m lucky to have had the time to explore Ithaca this summer, but I feel even luckier to have found such a phenomenal group of people with which to share those experiences. It may sound cheesy, but even though my job as an RA is now over, I know the friendships I’ve made will remain strong long after the weather inevitably turns cold.

The whole Summer Sessions team after an intense night of karaoke!

The whole Summer Sessions team after an intense night of karaoke! Photo credits: Emily Schnier.

Looking to the Fall: Studying Abroad in Paris

Here on campus, we’ve just started our finals period! Even in the midst of exams and papers, though, our ambassadors are looking ahead. Sophomore Shanna Smith discusses her plans to study abroad next semester, all while juggling the requirements of being a biology major on a pre-med track!

By: Shanna Smith ’18

I was once told that for me, studying abroad would be difficult, if not impossible. Touring colleges, I was always afraid I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dreams and go abroad due to my rigorous major, Biological Sciences on a pre-medical track. During my first month here at Cornell, I hesitantly approached my pre-medical advisor, Ana Adinolfi, and asked how difficult it would be to study abroad. Her response: incredibly easy.

210Having studied French since middle school, I continued my francophone education at Cornell during my first semester. I initially began French here to fulfill my Arts & Sciences language requirement, but I immediately fell in love with Cornell’s French program. Taking French has allowed me to think in a much different way than in my biology courses. During French class I step away from biological processes and organic molecules towards an incredibly difficult yet rewarding way of thinking – in words that a couple years ago had absolutely no meaning to me. Cornell not only offers French grammar courses but also courses in French literature, films, culture, and the most unique one I have seen: pronunciation. The latter I am currently enrolled in and I cannot express how much more fluent I feel and sound in the language. As a result, I have taken French all four of my semesters here at Cornell, far beyond what’s necessary to fulfill the language requirement. By my freshman spring, I knew I had to study abroad in France.

In just three months, I will study in Paris with one of Cornell’s amazing French-speaking programs, EDUCO. I will take classes at universities in Paris and be completely immersed in the French language and Parisian culture. A major focus of the EDUCO program is to integrate students into French culture in all aspects. Thus, I will be a true Parisian student, not a tourist traveling to France for a semester. My courses will mainly fulfill distribution requirements outside of biology. However, I am not completely taking a break from my major. The EDUCO program can set me up with biology research in Paris, and it will count as one of the four courses EDUCO students must take!

219I utilized the Arts & Sciences study abroad advisors’ open office hours as a resource multiple times when going through the application process, and both Dean Patricia Wasyliw and Dean Clare McMillan were incredibly helpful. They made the application process as easy and as non-stressful as possible; they truly want every student to have the opportunity to go abroad. Ms. Adinolfi also helped me lay out a 4-year college schedule that allows me to spend a semester abroad.

I cannot wait for this opportunity to see and appreciate Paris, because it holds so much beauty, history, and culture. I will not be limited to Paris, however. There will be various trips scheduled specifically for my program to let students explore other parts of France, and I’ll also be able to spend weekends traveling around Europe if I want. My ultimate goal is to become fluent in French, and after taking many courses at Cornell and learning more and more about the EDUCO program, that goal seems very probable.

I will always be grateful that Cornell has given me the gift of studying abroad, despite past fears that it was a terrible idea for someone in my major. I went from being uncertain that I would have time in my busy course schedule to go abroad to committing to a wonderful Parisian abroad program and picking up a French minor.

“Boring” Summer Plans

By: Christopher-James Llego ’17

Last night, as I was eating my salad bowl of spinach and baby carrots (and loathing my friends who were on their cheat days), a thought went through my mind: my summer plans stink. I hadn’t really thought much about my summer plans—and if I did, it usually wasn’t in such a negative way—but after hearing about Friend A’s internship in New York City, Friend B’s plans to backpack through Europe, and Friend C’s plane tickets to XYZ LOCATION (I kind of zoned out at this point), I really got to thinking about how utterly boring my summer would end up being.

To be fair, I might just be exaggerating, though Cornell students seem to have a peculiar habit of “doing the most.” So here’s my attempt at trying to look on the bright side: this summer, I’ll be conducting research for my honors thesis on Global Horror Cinema and Transnational Feminism, studying for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and contemplating graduate programs in Comparative Literature or Asian Studies or English (so many options!) and fulfilling an Arts & Sciences distribution requirement.

Christopher-James and thesis research materials

Here’s me, a book pile from phase 1 of my thesis research, and my fifth cup of coffee that night.

Within Arts & Sciences, seniors on the honors track (i.e. those with a high enough in-major and overall GPA) have the opportunity to write a ~50 page thesis on any topic that interests them. I have a weird obsession with cult classic horror films, foreign languages, film and media theory, and feminism, so I decided to combine my eccentricities and start a project examining the “Final Girl” Teen Slasher trope and its various permutations, as well as its variations across foreign film movements like the New French Extremity, Giallo all’italiana, and Tagalog Aswang films. Nifty, huh? I like it. In fact, I like it enough to have spent my past year watching and re-watching over 300 horror films—and will spend this summer and all of next year watching hundreds more.

GRE prep

A remnant of my first day studying GRE vocabulary. Notice the similarity to SAT prep. Unseen in this photo—me sobbing as I have a flashback to my days studying for the SAT.

And why am I doing all of that, you ask? To fulfill a deep-seated desire to validate my obsessions, to find the feminism in a misunderstood cinematic genre, and to practice for what will most likely be several more years of research. Yes, graduate school! This summer, I’ll be self-studying for the GRE. Locked away in a small apartment sublet with blank walls and piles of GRE prep books and card sets, I’ll be cramming for an exam that will decide my FUTURE (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Such a scary thought. Will I get into graduate school? Which field will I pursue? What will I do with my life?

Well, the answer sort of depends on whether or not I can graduate first. And so, we come to the last part of my summer: an online course on Human Evolution. Arts & Sciences has a few distribution requirements, which allow students to choose courses in fields that they normally wouldn’t pursue. I discovered my Gender Studies major through the Cultural Analysis requirement and Comparative Literature through both the Foreign Language and Literature & the Arts requirements. Unfortunately for me, I have a knack for procrastinating and have avoided any math or science courses these past three years. So now, I’m finding ways to fulfill these requirements during my breaks.

Online class

Online courses—taking classes from the comfort of your bedroom desk.

Cornell is awesome in that it offers Physical & Biological Sciences courses that aren’t as intensive as, say, Organic Chemistry. In other words: non-science-minded students need not be afraid of the distribution requirements! Also, pro tip: don’t wait until the last minute (senior year) to start taking these courses!

So yes, I may not be backpacking through Europe, but at least I’ll get to do something that I love: conduct research. And hey, thanks to Cornell’s dedication to providing students with online courses, I’ll get to spend my summer blasting my A.C. and avoiding the blistering heat that I’m so unaccustomed to as a Cornellian.

Approaching Alumna-Hood

We’ve made it to May! As seniors approach graduation and underclassmen look forward to summer break, we at the Ambassadors blog have decided to focus on “Looking Forward.” Senior Samantha Briggs starts off the month with a post about her experience deciding on her next step: Columbia Law School.

By: Samantha Briggs ’16

Me on my first day at Cornell!

Me on my first day at Cornell!

I think I speak for the majority (if not the entirety) of the Class of 2016 when I say: you will not believe how quickly four years fly by. On the one hand, it feels like many millennia ago that I was moving into Clara Dickson Hall on North Campus as an incoming freshman, and on the other hand, it feels like I hardly blinked and am suddenly preparing to graduate. Although I am sad to leave this wonderful and beautiful place, I am incredibly excited for all that is coming next. For me, that is being a part of Columbia Law School’s Class of 2019.

I snapped this shot of Manhattan from Columbia's campus, which will be my new home for the next three years.

I snapped this shot of Manhattan from Columbia’s campus, which will be my new home for the next three years.

The process of deciding to apply to law school, applying to law school, and enrolling in a law school can be challenging, and at times, downright confusing. I could not be more thankful for the endless help and support I received throughout the process from Cornell’s academic advisors and my professors. The College of Arts & Science has several academic advising deans for undergraduates, including those who specialize in pre-graduate program advising. For example, Dean Heather Struck specializes in pre-law advising. My first appointment with Dean Struck was in the spring semester of my junior year, when I had decided that I was going to apply to law school, but I wasn’t sure if I would take a gap year. Then, over the summer between my junior and senior year, when I was studying to take my LSAT (the law school admissions test) and beginning to prepare my application, I corresponded with Dean Struck over email. This year, I have been a frequent flyer in Dean Struck’s office. She has provided me with invaluable advice on a bevy of different topics, from writing my personal statement to making sense of my admissions offers, to applying for financial aid. There is no manual for applying to law school (no matter what might be on the shelves at Barnes and Noble), but I never found a question to which Dean Struck did not have an answer.

My dream workplace: the Supreme Court building.

My dream workplace: the Supreme Court building.

Throughout this entire process, I knew my professors were rooting for me. Whether it was writing a letter of recommendation for my application, allowing me to miss class or providing assignment extensions to accommodate interviews, or just providing reassurance, my professors have been a constant source of support.

Just thinking about my upcoming graduation fills me with nostalgia, but I know I’ll keep coming back up to Ithaca long after I leave. Law school is the next step toward achieving my dreams of working for the federal government and ultimately, hopefully, for the Supreme Court, and I have Cornell to thank for helping me start on that path.