Why Cornell? Ambassador Renee Answers…

This week, Renee explains why she chose Cornell, after a visit to campus in high school.

By Renee Girard ’20, Government, Law and Society and Public Policy major

I first walked onto Cornell’s campus as a high school sophomore. I knew I wanted to apply, but as a senior preparing my college applications, I decided to visit Cornell once more to ensure that Early Decision was right for me. As a high school junior, I became interested in philosophy and wrote a paper on the morality of drone use in warfare. Through my research on the ethical implications of this modern technology in combat, I had come across a Cornell Government Professor and her extensive work regarding this topic. I reached out and scheduled a meeting with the Professor, and following the College of Arts and Sciences information session, I made my way to White Hall to discuss her research with her. What was scheduled to be a twenty-minute discussion lasted a full hour.

I took this photo outside of the government building, White Hall, after my class on the American Presidency this year.

Leaving our meeting, I walked through the Arts Quad and experienced the palpable energy among students and faculty making their way to classes. While Cornell is a large university with diverse interests, the passion among students and faculty is a common factor that unites such a broad range of studies.

I had my heart set on the College of Arts and Sciences following my visit as a high school senior. Even as a prospective student, I had experienced first-hand the commitment the professors of the College of Arts and Sciences have to undergraduate students. I knew that if admitted to Cornell, I would be immersed in an incredible learning environment that would allow me to thrive as I pursued my various interests. As a current student, I know that I would like to apply my Cornell government degree to a career in public service. I knew that Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences was the only school that had the resources to offer me the opportunities and skills I need to succeed in my field.

Walking through the Arts Quad is always a nice break in between classes, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing color.

Why Cornell? Ambassador Vishal Answers…

With the regular decision deadline fast approaching, the A&S Ambassadors hope to make the application decision a bit easier for prospective students. Every Cornell student has a story. This week, Vishal tells us why he chose Cornell.

By Vishal Sundaram ’21, Chemistry and Chemical Biology major

By the spring of my final year of high school, I had envisioned many different lives for myself on many different college campuses. Such fantasies are standard practice for high school seniors – a student can’t help but think about how pivotal the next few months will be in directing the course of their future. With each college visit comes a flurry of what-ifs. What if this is my dorm? What if I have class here? What if I one day join the student group that runs this very information session for prospective students? (Update: I did!) Though these fantasies of mine ranged far and wide, not one of them accurately captured the route that I would eventually take – for, as crazy as it sounds, none of them included Cornell.

I took this photo of the slope from the top of the McGraw Clock Tower, during a Chimes Concert.

My application to Cornell was largely an after thought, a last-ditch “you-never-know” attempt to cover my bases and open my options. I assure you this was not because Cornell was lacking in any traits that I desired. Quite the contrary. It was a prestigious institution with a reputation for academic rigor located on a beautiful campus that was not too far from my home (Cleveland, OH). I lacked enthusiasm for the school because I’d never visited! I had not made the effort to visit Cornell before I applied. When decision time rolled around in March, however, it grew clearer to my family and me that Cornell could be my best fit school. Desperate to spark some excitement, my dad and I finally drove up to Ithaca to see what Cornell was all about. The Ithaca campus did not disappoint.

Photographs on websites and in brochures cannot begin to capture the beauty of this campus. Waterfalls, rolling hills, gorges, and greenery abound in such a way that helps students maintain sight of the big picture – a desirable quality in an academically rigorous university with busy and ambitious students.

My friends and I took a trip down to Ithaca Falls, in the fall of my freshman year.

I stayed the night with a friend from high school during my visit; and I was lucky enough to meet some of his friends and dorm-mates. In these peers I found friendly, genuine people who were passionate about what they did. Void of any “Ivy League snobbery” that one might expect to find, these people were humble and helpful. Some of these acquaintances became my friends and mentors.

During freshman orientation, my dad took this classic photo near the entrance to campus from Collegetown.

Having fallen in love with the campus and community spirit, my questions turned to the classes. While I knew about Cornell’s academic rigor, I was concerned about inflexibility in my coursework. But after talking to some students and doing some research of my own, I realized that my concerns were largely unfounded. My desired chemistry major offered plenty of room for elective coursework. I was told that the A&S distribution requirements are seldom burdensome and often very naturally fulfilled simply by taking classes you like!

All in all, I am very happy with the decision that I made and cannot imagine myself anywhere else. A beautiful campus, a fantastic community of friends and peers, and excellent academic flexibility have made for a complete package that is both fulfilling and inspiring.

Both Work and Fun: Watershed Conservation in Alaska

This week, Ambassador Tait Stevenson tells us how he spent his summer in Alaska, supporting watershed conservation with creativity. 

By Tait Stevenson ’20, Biological Sciences (Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Concentration)

My name is Tait Stevenson and I am a biological sciences major concentrating in ecology and evolutionary biology. I was lucky enough to get to spend this past summer in Alaska, as an invasive species intern for the Kenai Watershed Forum. The Kenai Watershed Forum is a non-profit organization with the goal of protecting the watersheds of the Kenai Peninsula through education, restoration, and research.

Getting ready for the Kenai River Festival! This annual community event, hosted in the town of Soldotna, includes numerous local musicians and vendors. It draws people from all over Alaska in celebration of the Kenai River and the community’s goal of protecting it.

Through the internship, I was able to gain a wide range of invaluable experiences relevant to what I’m studying; I learned management techniques for dealing with invasive plants and animals, assisted in hydrological research, helped in conducting wetland surveys, and engaged in various community outreach projects. I was able to gain some unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as visiting the Native Alaskan villages of Port Graham and Nanwalek, which are accessible only by boat or small plane. There, I helped to educate people on the invasive plants of their villages and the potential steps they could take to manage them.

I was able to do a ride along with an Alaska State Fish and Game warden on the Kenai River, in order to witness the law enforcement aspect of conservation.

While I was in Alaska, I lived in a yurt on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, outside of the town of Soldotna, though I traveled all over the Kenai Peninsula for various projects. On my time off of work, I soaked up as much of what Alaska had to offer as I possibly could by going on hiking, canoeing, fishing, and camping trips. I was able to witness incredible wildlife and experience the breathtaking landscapes.

A large part of my summer was spent doing surveys on various Kenai Peninsula lakes for an invasive, aquatic plant called elodea. I was also able to enjoy some incredible scenery while on the job.

In Alaska, I was able to apply the concepts I have been learning in classroom at Cornell to real world issues. This experience gave me a newfound perspective on the challenges faced in the area of conservation and how to overcome these challenges through creative solutions, such as community engagement.

I am excited to be back in Ithaca for another great semester. I can’t wait to see where Cornell takes me next!

Kidney Stone Research: A Blast in Birmingham

This week, Dean Kim takes us inside his summer experience as a medical research assistant.

By Dean Kim ’20, Chemistry and East Asian Studies

I spent this past summer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducting kidney-related research in the Department of Urology. Since my last blog, I have spent nine weeks in Birmingham, Alabama making amazing memories, conducting exciting research, and eating lots of fantastic food.

All the KURE students celebrated the experience at the UAB Summer Expo: (left to right) back row: Skip, Brian, Chava, Jillian; middle row: Shamyra, Ellen, Miles, me, Stephen, Jeff; front row: Viangkaeo, Meryl, Mary Claire, and Emile

I had an incredible time performing medical-related research in a lab for the first time in my life, as well as learning about everything from kidney physiology and pathology to diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases, during my weekly kidney cross-talk workshops. In lab, I studied the metabolism of glycolate to oxylate in human kidney proximal tubule cells using cell culture to determine how kidneys contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones. (Fun-ish fact: around 1 in 10 people will get kidney stones in their lifetime!) Through this experience, I was able to explore my interest in the field of nephrology.

From left to right: Skip, Chava, Emile, me, and Meryl at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Not pictured: the three samosas I just bought from a stand and ate.

On weekends, when I wasn’t in lab, I took time to explore the local area with other students in the program. We walked to the local Farmer’s Market, watched the Birmingham Barons play baseball at Regions Field, hiked at Red Mountain Park, and even visited the World of Coca-Cola, over the course of the summer. My trip wouldn’t have been complete, of course, if I didn’t eat copious amounts of Southern barbecue. My personal favorite barbecue restaurant was Dreamland BBQ.

My summer concluded with me giving a poster and oral presentation at UAB and then attending the Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic (KUH) Summer Undergraduate Research Conference in Boston, where I shared my research experiences with other undergraduate students across the country participating in similar research programs.

I presented my summer research at the UAB Summer Research Expo on the last day of the program!

The summer went by too quickly, but I’m making sure to stay in touch with the great friends I made this summer as well as my excellent mentor. I owe a huge thanks to the KURE Program for providing me this opportunity, as well as my mentor, Dr. Sonia Fargue, for introducing me to the world of medical research.

 

Summer Adventure Series: Ambassador Shoshana spent her Summer in Cape Town, South Africa

For October, we ask our ambassadors how they spent this past summer. This week Shoshana takes us across the ocean to her experience at Eventerprise, a startup where she developed her design skills.

By Shoshana Swell ’20, Information Science and Performing and Media Arts

My name is Shoshana Swell. I am a Junior in The College of Arts and Sciences, double majoring in Information Science and Performing and Arts. This past summer, I traveled 8,000 miles to live in Cape Town, South Africa. My time there was an experience I’ll treasure forever.

I have always been passionate about the intersection between visual storytelling and human-computer interaction to generate positive social change. I believe the best way to grow as an individual, creator, and as a student is to push yourself in unknown and new situations. This past summer, these interests led me on an adventure to Cape Town, South Africa.

Woodstock Cave, Cape Town

Mission 1: Find a way to get there
In February 2018, I found a job posting at a tech-startup called Eventerprise located in Cape Town, South Africa and accepted the offer to travel and work for this emerging company. After receiving the job, I had to find a means to gather money for travel and expenses. I applied for and was a recipient of the Summer Experience Grant. This grant helped fund my entire trip including airfare, accommodation, and food.

Mission 2: Blastoff to Cape Town
A week after I finished finals, I flew to my new home in Cape Town. I left with my passport, a suitcase, a housing agreement and not much else. Leaving the United States with no connections in Cape Town and many uncertainties, I embraced the new risks and explored the world beyond my comfort zone. Twenty-four hours later my plane landed; Cape Town International Airport welcomed me and my journey began.

Lion’s Head

Mission 3: Making Cape Town my new home
Cape Town, 8,000 miles from my New York home, at first, unsettled me. The realization that I’d be spending the next few months in a vastly different country hit me all at once. Quickly, though, my shock turned from excitement to elation.

I moved into a student-living space in Observatory — a small town outside of Cape Town —full of international interns and local students.  I built lifetime friendships with students now living full-time in Cape Town, and others who moved across the world to London and Singapore.

My friends and me at Observatory.

Mission 4: Internship
I worked as a User Experience and Videography Intern to solve problems through design, to improve the digital platform’s features and to enhance user experience. During my time there, I was the only American and was surrounded by international interns from various countries in Europe, Singapore and South Africa. I not only developed my design skills each day at work, I also learned about new cultures and distinct experiences.

Hard at work!

Outside of my internship, I attended local entrepreneurial events, such as the Amazon AWS Summit and an event about robotics in Africa. I learned about the intersection of AWS products and local innovators to generate products and new technology.

I also had the opportunity to explore innovative ideas to improve rider safety in Cape Town Ubers, by designing a new Uber safety feature. You can read more about my case study and research here.

I saved my badge as a souvenir.

Mission 5: Adventure
Some people like to walk around, but I like to dance! Check out my video I made dancing with new friends at all the places we visited in Cape Town.

Between dance moves, I went swimming with sharks! I went Great White Shark Cage Diving and made it out alive! While inside the cage, multiple Great White Sharks nearly brushed my cheek. I wasn’t scared, only exhilarated.

Great White Shark Cage Diving -Hermanus

South Africa is known for its shark filled waters. After being up close to one, I tried the odds in the open water. I found my favorite surf spot at Muizenberg Beach. One time, I was on a wave and spotted a seal ride it with me. I rented a board and a wet suit on the weekends and surfed (read: wiped out) a lot.

Another weekend, I traveled along the Garden Route. The Garden Route is a journey that stretches from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape. With 12 friends, I packed up and headed on a five hour road trip outside of Cape Town. Along the way, we fed elephants and hung out with penguins!

I made animal friends, too!

Mission 6: The Future
My experience in Cape Town exceeded my every expectation. If you have the opportunity to travel 8,000 miles away from home during your time at Cornell, take the risk! As for the future, this summer I will be working at Facebook as a Product Design Intern. I look forward to exploring more of the Design industry in the years to come.

If you have any questions about my experience, or if you would like to learn more, reach out to me! ses372@cornell.edu

Arts & Sciences & Healthcare & Business

In our last post of the year, junior Zoee shares her excitement for a summer internship in healthcare consulting, not necessarily a position of her utmost expertise but one Arts and Sciences’ holistic education helped her attain. 

By Zoee D’Costa ’19, Biology & Society major, Psychology minor

Student taking photo of interview outfit

This is a picture from just before my first interview with the company. I was super excited to be wearing business formal clothes instead of my usual medical garb!

This summer I will be working in Chicago interning for a consulting company focusing on healthcare. While at first glance, business and finance might seem like dirty words to an idealistic pre-medical student with goals to serve communities across the world, they are concepts that are intertwined and dependent.

As a student versed in both the humanities and sciences, I have seen the value in the connection of fields. Studying Biology & Society in the College of Arts & Sciences has helped prepare me for an internship in business in invaluable ways. I have developed skills in critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines, and I’ve been given the opportunity to see how understanding trends in healthcare and biological science affect patients and communities. These skills have clearly helped me gain employment in a field that is different than my training because the skills are transferable and make me a holistic candidate.

Here is a photo from my final round of interviews with my company–they flew me out to Chicago to do a full day of problem solving, interviews and cases.

Furthermore, being exposed to so many contrasting ideas and fields in my undergraduate experience gave me the confidence to seek employment outside of my comfort area and be sure that I will find success in this field as well. Finally, combining business and health may seem strange but I think it is very important to try a wide variety of positions within the field before committing to a path so that you not only solidify your choices and lessen your regrets of opportunity costs, but also gain experience and knowledge that is applicable to a career in medicine. I am excited to learn about the business of healthcare and find out how to optimize practices so that I can bring that to my patients when I am a physician. Here’s to a great summer!

It Is Okay to Not Know What You Want to Do

Sydney, one of our graduating seniors, discusses how Arts and Sciences has instilled in her a true passion for learning, a quality she hopes to take with her to whatever field she ultimately decides to pursue.

By Sydney Mann ’18, American Studies major, English minor

To be quite honest, I’ve been faced with the question “what are you doing after graduation?” more than—at this point—I would have wanted. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an easy, very warranted question. It’s just that, after four years, it has taken me a long time to get comfortable with the notion that I don’t know what I am doing….just yet.

Being a student in the College of Arts and Sciences has taught me many things. On a very practical level, work in Government, English, and History have endowed me with sharp writing and analytical skills. Yet, beyond utility, the College of Arts and Sciences, with its passionate professors and intellectually curious students, have imbued in me a passion for learning; a passion that has led me to try classes I would have never imagined myself taking, a passion that I can take to any field I choose to go into after graduation.

This past year, I sat down with Careers Services in the College of Arts and Sciences. My biggest regret, I can say, was not taking advantage of their services sooner. I say that because their empathy, understanding, and resources enabled me to pinpoint what track I should be on. I was told early on that I most likely would not have a job within my area of study until after graduation. I was okay with that, and my supportive career counselor helped me be okay with it. Instead, she connected me with Alumni with whom I could discuss what I was passionate about and discover where I could go in the future.

It has taken me four years to fully learn, but the College of Arts and Sciences has taught me that it is okay to not know what you want to do; it is okay to not have a job upon graduation. In fact, most students don’t graduate with a job–not because of merit but simply because they are waiting for that opening that satisfies what they are passionate about. Timing is everything, and I am happy to see where my path leads in the future.

Kidney Research Internship: Branching Out from the Comfort of Cornell

This week, sophomore Dean talks about exciting new opportunities that await him this summer and how Arts and Sciences has helped him step out of his comfort zone and challenge himself. 

By Dean Kim ’20, Chemistry major, East Asian Studies minor

This summer, I will be participating, along with 12 other undergraduates from across the country, in the UAB Kidney Undergraduate Research Experience Program.

As the semester comes to an end and the weather gets warmer, I’m looking forward to packing my bags and traveling to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School campus where I’ll be participating in their Kidney Undergraduate Research Program (KURE) for the summer! The College of Arts & Sciences has helped me prepare for what lies ahead by teaching me how to explore and think independently.

Me presenting research at the Boyce Thompson Institute Plant Genomics Summer Research Symposium last summer!

Coming to Cornell, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And while I’m still a Chemistry pre-med undergraduate as planned, I have also discovered new interests and changed my outlook on learning through taking distribution requirements. Arts and Sciences has taught me the importance of meeting new people. In my core Chemistry courses, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people with similar interests as myself. Having classes together each semester has allowed us to bond and form close friendships. However, when I took a course in film history this semester, I met a whole new group of people with different interests, hobbies, and perspectives. Branching out in my classes exposed me to a diverse group of people that had new ideas and experiences I could learn about.  While staying in my comfort zone felt safer, the most beneficial experiences I’ve had at Cornell have been when I had left my comfort zone and explored. For instance, I discovered a new hobby by taking a juggling class, and took interest in the East Asian Studies minor after taking a Religious Studies course last fall.

Touring Song Lin’s Lab in April 2018. On the left is Juno, a graduate student in Professor Lin’s Lab. I’ll be conducting organic chemistry research in the Lin Lab next Fall!

Arts and Sciences has also taught me the importance of problem-solving. Hard work can never be overstated, but smart work is often overlooked. In my studies, I’ve learned that there is never a singular way to do anything or one perfect solution. For example, the way I study for organic chemistry does not work for studying sociology or film studies. I have learned how to adapt when I face challenges. This has been an essential skill that has helped me in my research lab at Cornell and will continue to help me as I conduct kidney research this summer. Thanks of these lessons learned through Arts and Sciences, I was inspired to leave my comfort zone of Cornell and my hometown of Wilton, CT to branch out. I’m extremely excited to make new friends and new experiences at UAB this summer.

Off to Oxford!

Can you believe it’s already May? In the final month of this academic year, ambassadors will tell us what adventures await them this summer or, for some, after graduation. Senior Solveig starts us off by sharing how Cornell and Arts and Sciences helped prepare her for what lies ahead at Oxford. 

By Solveig van der Vegt ’18, Biological Sciences major, Mathematics minor

A view of Christchurch College at Oxford, taken when I visited Oxford with my cousin last summer.

31 months down, less than 1 to go. Graduation is getting really close and I am both super excited and a little scared. The past 4 years at Cornell have been amazing, but I also feel like it is time to move on. So at the end of May, I will be packing up my suitcases to go home for a few months. I will be doing a lot of traveling and relaxing over the summer and in October I will be starting my graduate studies at the University of Oxford! I have committed to the Systems Approaches to Biomedical Sciences CDT, which is a combined masters and PhD program, and I couldn’t be more excited.

 

To be fair, I didn’t get here on my own. Graduate school applications aren’t easy, especially when you decided to that you want to go abroad. Luckily, I had some amazing people supporting me along the way, from the people at career services who reviewed all my application materials, to the wonderful faculty who agreed to write letters of recommendation and helped me decide which programs would be the best fit for me. All the opportunities that Cornell offered over the past four years – rigorous classes, research, volunteering – were also helpful in building a solid resume and having something interesting to talk about during interview.

The Radcliffe Camera at Oxford.

Applications are stressful, but meeting with faculty and staff and discovering that they are truly excited about the opportunities you are pursuing and want to help makes the whole process 10 times better. It takes a village, as they say, and I truly feel that at Cornell and in the College of Arts and Sciences, the village is there.

Validating and Examining My LGBTQ Experience Through Academics and Social Life at Cornell

For April, we focus on the theme of diversity. Ambassadors will share times at which they felt that diversity is important in Arts and Sciences, and what life at Cornell is like as a minority, whether that be in terms of race, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or perspective. This week, Sophomore Julian discusses how his academic and social experiences at Cornell have helped him process, validate, and examine his identity as an openly gay student. 

By Julian Kroll ’20, Government and Philosophy double major

My first day on Cornell’s campus, 2016

Coming to Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences as an openly gay student, I wasn’t sure what to expect about my academic and social experiences on campus. I wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable about being publicly gay; having outed myself to my neighborhood in Ohio when I was 15 years old, I was very familiar with the implications of publicly identifying as a member of the LGBTQ community. However, navigating the complex social and academic spaces of a University seemed a much more daunting task than doing so in the comfort of my hometown. While it has been uncomfortable at moments, I’ve found that the time I’ve spent at Cornell has helped me to process my experience as an LGBTQ person in new and exciting ways. 

One of the texts recommended by my FWS professor.

My studies actually made the process of adjusting to the social space of Cornell much easier for me. I’m currently double majoring in Government and Philosophy, and I often find the content of my courses to be incredibly relevant to my own life. Thanks to the freedom with which I am able to choose my classes, I often knowingly or unknowingly choose courses that help me think about the many dimensions of identity in new and exciting ways. For example, my second Freshman Writing Seminar, which focused on representations of marginalized groups in literature, was extremely impactful in this sense. After becoming intrigued by an essay on queer theory by Adrienne Rich, I asked my professor if she could recommend similar texts to me. She referred me to two collections of essays, one by Audre Lorde and one by Adrienne Rich. Especially in the midst of a hefty Cornell semester, it was valuable to read and discuss texts which not only validated my experience but also helped to examine it.

Socially, I found the college of Arts and Sciences in particular to be a really valuable space. While every college at Cornell is intellectually diverse, it’s my belief that the abstract nature of many Arts and Sciences courses attracts a certain type of thinker. Further, the highly collaborative nature of many Arts and Sciences courses creates opportunities to discuss course material and individual viewpoints with impressive groups of creative and driven people. While this interactive model of learning spans many subjects, I have a particular affinity for those which pertain to everyday existence within structures of power. Usually, during such discussions, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized peoples are mentioned fairly quickly. To discuss my experiences in a setting which is simultaneously academic, personal, and respectful has been incredibly valuable.

The experience of being queer anywhere is complicated. For better or worse, you will be perceived differently in different spaces. To manage that, it’s important to keep a fully stocked arsenal of ways to validate and examine your experience. Personally, I’ve found that my classes and my work do this job handily; the College of Arts and Sciences provides incredible academic and personal resources. However, even if you don’t have the chance to incorporate these resources into your daily life, the sheer size of Cornell ensures that there’ll never be a shortage of creative and open-minded people to connect with. While being out at Cornell may seem daunting at first, I found my adjustment to the Cornell Community to be very rewarding.