Category Archives: Academics

Finding My Niche in the Sciences: The Information Science Major

This week, senior Meg Shigeta talks about how the breadth of the Arts & Sciences course roster allowed her to explore different fields as an underclassmen until she found her home in the Information Science department. Enjoy!

By: Meg Shigeta ’17, Information Science major, Business minor

ice skating

Ice skating at Lynah Rink freshman year with friends (I’m on the right)!

When I first entered Cornell as a freshman in the fall of 2013, I had very little idea what it was I wanted to study. I was the epitome of an undecided undergraduate, and I was nervous that this lack of direction would set me back somehow, make me less of a real student compared to my friends who had planned the next twenty years of their lives out seemingly overnight. However, I now realize that where I was lost, the College of Arts & Sciences was able to step in and point me in the right direction. The curriculum of Arts & Sciences allowed me to take a wide range of courses, each of which slowly led me to my area of study today. Just what subject is that? Well, let me take you on a little trip.

Brunch

Getting brunch at Taverna Banfi sophomore year!

As a freshman, one of the first classes I took was called SOC 3010: Evaluating Statistical Evidence. It was a class I found unexpectedly, and ended up being one of my favorites of the semester. After taking this class I decided to explore more sociology courses, and took SOC 1101: Introduction to Sociology. Because I also felt more aligned with the “Sciences” part of the College, I was able to take MATH 2130: Calculus III during this time as well. Even though I was still undecided, my diverse course load helped me fulfill my Arts & Sciences graduation requirements, and slowly led me towards figuring out just what it was I wanted to major in.

For February Break during my junior year, my friends and I visited Niagara Falls.

After taking these courses, I realized that what I wanted to study was this middle ground between human systems and information systems. After speaking to friends and advisors about my new interests, I decided to try taking some classes in Information Science. As a result, when I returned to Cornell as a sophomore in the fall of 2014, I decided to take INFO 1300: Introductory Design and Programming for the Web, and after that there was no looking back.

Celebrating homecoming during my senior year!

 

Today, I will be graduating as an Information Science major, and plan to further pursue additional education in Information Science after I finish my undergraduate career. I am so grateful to have found this major, and I don’t think that I would have discovered it had it not been for the myriad of classes I took in a variety of departments my freshman year, each of which slowly helped me to discover just what it was I was truly passionate about. So yes, I may be that cliché student who started out as an undecided freshman four years ago, but do I regret it? Not one bit.

Finding Science in the Arts

This week, junior Kasey Han discusses how the depth and breadth of Arts & Sciences have allowed her to pursue unique opportunities as a College Scholar studying Developmental Circus Arts.

By: Kasey Han ’18, Biology and College Scholar double major

Life’s way better upside down!

Here’s a real piece of advice I’ve received: “Do a handstand before your exam.” Even if seeing me doing a handstand outside my prelim (Cornell’s version of midterms) warrants a few incredulous stares, the suggestion holds merit. While I’m upside down, blood flows with gravity down towards my head, bringing with it the oxygen, glucose, and nutrients my brain needs to function optimally during an exam.

This is merely one example of the many connections I form as part of my College Scholar project. Housed in the College of Arts & Sciences, the College Scholar program allows students to create an interdisciplinary major in an area of interest, design their own curriculum, and occasionally feed on chocolate-covered strawberries. As a College Scholar, I study how Circus Arts may be used as a form of therapy for children with neuropsychiatric disorders. Circus Arts is viewed through a range of academic lenses, but I am primarily interested in the physiological and psychological underpinnings of engaging in circus. The science of the art, if you will.

In circus, we lift each other up!

As part of my independent major, I choose classes that relate to my field from amongst Arts and Sciences’ 2,400 courses on offer each year. This past fall, I took Brain Control of Movement, taught by my favorite professor: Jesse Goldberg. In his class, we took an in-depth look at the neural circuits underlying movement and motor learning, and how dysfunctions of the circuit can lead to diseases like Parkinson’s, cerebellar ataxia, and basal ganglia disorders. Applying my newfound knowledge on the brain’s motor circuits, I can better understand how Circus Arts play a role in reinforcement and supervised learning and may ameliorate symptoms of physical disabilities.

This spring, I am currently enrolled in Adult Psychopathology, taught by the amazing professor and clinical psychologist Harry Segal. After blowing my mind with his unique take on Freud’s psychodynamic theory, he lectures on the etiology and treatment of everything from depression to schizophrenia. With his course, I have a greater grasp of various disabilities and how Circus Arts may be integrated into current treatments. These and many more courses give me the information, as well as the critical thinking skills, to direct how I train in and teach circus at Ithaca’s local circus school, Circus Culture.

Probably the greatest thing about Arts & Sciences is that my mashing of science with art isn’t that uncommon. It’s not the exception to the rule—it is the rule. It’s in the name! Without preaching too much, this is the beauty of the liberal arts degree. The arts and the sciences do not go simply hand-in-hand: there is art in science just as I study the science behind the arts.

What Do I Want to Do with my Majors?

This week, meet junior Suzy Park, an economics and psychology double major who was recently inspired by her experiences in Arts & Sciences to pursue a career in law. Suzy will be taking over the Ambassadors blog next year – see what she has to say below!

By: Suzy Ji Soo Park ’18, Economics and Psychology double major, Communications minor

When I introduce myself as an economics and psychology double major, 99 percent of people say, “Oh, that’s cool! So what do you want to do with it?” Until recently, my response was, “I’m not sure. Econ and psych are just fields that interest me!” But starting a couple months ago, I can confidently say, “I want to go to law school.”

A view of the beautiful Cornell Law School building on a March afternoon.

All throughout my life, the word “lawyer” was constantly thrown around in conversations with my dad. He had always emphasized the advantages that come with a licensed profession – accountant, doctor, actuary – and lawyer was on the top of his list. But honestly, the idea of becoming a lawyer was as scary as it was interesting, and I never truly considered it as a potential career until I took PSYCH 2650: Psychology and Law the fall of my sophomore year.

Taught by two distinguished law scholars – Professors Jeffrey Rachlinski and Valerie Hans – the course explores how psychology research helps us understand and improve the legal system. Delving into areas of constitutional law, criminal law, false convictions, jury decision-making, and more, the course not only confirmed my passion for psychology, but also instilled in me a newfound curiosity for the law. During one part of the course on children’s testimonies and their reliability, we read an article titled “Expert testimony in a child abuse case: Translating memory development research” coauthored by Maggie Bruck and Stephen Ceci, who is the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology here at Cornell. Incredibly excited by his body of research on children’s memory and its implications in the courtroom, I approached him to discuss working as a research assistant in his Child Witness and Cognition Lab. I am so grateful that he offered me the position, and over the last three semesters, I have worked on two exciting projects about intergroup relations in children and about linguistic analyses of juror deliberations. Although his lab is housed in the College of Human Ecology, I have been able to use the research credit hours towards my psychology major thanks to the flexibility of the Arts & Sciences curriculum.

I pose (second from the right) with my fellow research assistants at a poster forum hosted by the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board.

The best part of being an Arts & Sciences student is that the College allows the entire campus to become your field of exploration – your intellectual journey is not restricted to Arts & Sciences courses and professors (which are undoubtedly amazing) but rather, you are free to take advantage of the law school, the business school, other colleges, and more. Following Psychology and Law, I have continued exploring the discipline of law through courses such as LAW 4021: Competition Law and Policy, as well as through conversations with PhD and law students I have met along the way. By making available all of Cornell’s valuable resources, Arts & Sciences invites its students to build upon their strong liberal arts foundation through coursework and extracurricular experiences that span over all seven colleges and four graduate and professional schools.

Finding my Home in the “&” of “Arts & Sciences”

Happy March! You may have noticed that we at the Ambassadors blog took a quick break in February – we’ve been working hard to recruit new ambassadors, as well as find replacements for those executive board members who will be graduating in May (including me!). But rest assured, we’re back and as excited as ever!

For the next two months, we’ll be talking about “The ‘Who’ and the ‘What’ of Arts & Sciences.” Who studies the “Arts” and what do they study? Who studies the “Sciences” and what do they study? And what’s in between? I’ll be starting us off with a post about my experiences in the “in between.” I’ve tried to include links to as many relevant people, blog posts, and news articles as possible for those who would like to follow up on any of the things I talk about!

By: Emma Korolik ’17, Sociology and English double major, Education minor

When I meet new people at Cornell, they’re always surprised to learn that I attended a pre-engineering high school in central New Jersey. Why? Here at Cornell, I’m an English and sociology double major with an education minor, which is a far cry from my STEM-heavy high school experience – and a whole quad away from the College of Engineering:).

Joanna Weymouth (left, CAS ’17), Amanda Hellwig (second from right, HumEc ’16), Joy Hubbard-Wakayama (CAS ’17) and I pose at the Ithaca Farmers Market in fall 2016. We all lived together in Rome in the summer of 2015, and we’ve stayed close ever since!

Though I deeply appreciate my time in high school, I feel like I’ve truly found my home within the “&” of the College of Arts & Sciences. Throughout my four years here on the hill, I’ve been able to explore my passions for the humanities and social sciences through classwork; work and extracurriculars; an honors thesis (which is still a work in progress); fieldwork in Ithaca and in Taos, NM; and a study abroad experience in Rome, Italy. My Arts & Sciences professors, advisors, and peers have always been the first to encourage me to pursue these opportunities.

One of my favorite classes I’ve taken at Cornell is SOC 2710: America’s Promise: Social and Political Context of American Education, which I enrolled in for the fall of my sophomore year. While the class is technically housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), I was able to take advantage of the fact that the course is crosslisted in the sociology department in order to gain credit towards my sociology major in Arts & Sciences. At the time I took the class, I had never taken a sociology course; I barely even knew what sociology was!

Slater Goodman (CAS ’19), Deborah Glick (CALS ’19), Ebony Cadet (CALS ’17), and I pose after the annual SOC 2710 TA dinner hosted by our professor, John Sipple.

SOC 2710 explores the history of U.S. education and examines how schooling both reproduces and attempts to alleviate social inequalities, and it singlehandedly convinced me that I wanted to be a sociology major. For the past two years, I have had the privilege of being a teaching assistant for the course – I loved the class so much, I just couldn’t stay away! I even found my thesis advisor, Kendra Bischoff, through the class; we read a piece she had co-written on residential segregation by income about halfway through the semester, and I was so struck by her findings that I approached her a year and a half after first taking SOC 2710 to ask if she would oversee my research (thankfully, she said yes!).

President Rawlings (L), Professor Emeritus Ken McClane (R), and I pose for a photo at a reception in spring 2017.

While I discovered a new passion for the social sciences during my time here, I’ve also been able to further develop my love for the humanities. I copy edit for Ezra’s Archives, Cornell’s historical journal that publishes original undergraduate research, but what I enjoy most about the humanities at Cornell is creative writing, which is my concentration within the English major.

While I’ve been interested in creative writing since I was little, I took my first college creative writing class with Professor Ken McClane, an incredibly talented and prolific poet and essayist who I have been lucky enough to keep in touch with over the past few years. Because the class was seminar-based, we all had the opportunity to share our thoughts and opinions about assigned readings, and to critique each other’s work. I was so empowered by my experience that I decided to take a narrative writing class the following summer in Rome, Italy, and I’ve since taken several other creative writing classes in the English department. Each of these classes has allowed me to interact with and receive feedback from my peers and well-known writers like Robert Morgan and Helena Viramontes.

Perhaps what I appreciate most about the College of Arts & Sciences, though, is its openness and flexibility. I have been able to combine my studies in sociology of education with my work in English to craft my own unique Cornell experience that will serve me long after I graduate and start my job as an English teacher in New York City. I’ve been able to take classes in other colleges and count them for Arts credit, and sit in Arts classes with students from across the other six colleges. I’ve developed relationships with professors and maintained and deepened those connections throughout my time here. As a second semester senior looking back, I can safely say I made the right decision choosing the College of Arts & Sciences, and I know I’ve made the most of my experiences here.

How I Came to Love Cornell

Here in Ithaca, we’ve just finished classes for the semester and are hard at work studying for final exams. For high school seniors interested in Cornell, however, December means something a bit different. While some are waiting to hear back about their early decision applications, many other seniors are polishing their own applications to submit for the January 2nd regular decision deadline. Here at the Ambassadors blog, we’re focusing on why we love being at Cornell so much. Enjoy sophomore Mitchell Lee’s piece this week – and good luck to those of you applying to Cornell this year!

By: Mitchell Lee ’19

My current roommate and I (right) celebrate the first snow of the season.

My current roommate (left) and I celebrate the first snow of the season.

When I was accepted to Cornell, my emotions were running wild. I felt a mixture of excitement, happiness, apprehension, and anxiety – basically any and all emotions. I felt this all the way up until I arrived on campus last year. All my rampant emotions have relaxed, except for one now ever-present feeling: love. From the rigorous yet rewarding classes to the amazing people, I have come to love everything about Cornell. There is so much that I can write about, but I really wish to emphasize a few aspects that I find truly amazing about Cornell.

Here's a picture of the lab I work in!

Here’s a picture of the lab I work in!

One of first things I fell in love with is Cornell’s prodigious academics. There are so many different classes that cover a wide variety of topics, and the classes that I have taken are very stimulating. For example, I took a small freshman writing seminar entitled Magic in Arthurian Legend, and although it was a class designed to improve my writing, the content was fascinating. I enjoyed learning about something completely new to me. Larger lectures can be awesome as well; l really enjoy GOVT 1818: Introduction to International Relations, a class I’m taking this semester, and I loved BIOEE 1610: Introduction to Ecology & the Environment, a class I took last year. No matter the type of class or the style, my classes have been impressive and rewarding.

Here I am (far left) with my co-workers this past summer!

Here I am (far left) with my co-workers this past summer!

Not only are my classes interesting but they’re applicable as well. As a biology and government double major, my academics have a lot of real-world applications.. GOVT 1818 and BIOEE1610 have both enabled me to think critically and assess problems inside and outside the classroom. From BIOEE 1610, for example, I gained basic knowledge and analytical skills that I applied to my job this past summer as a field technician at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire. Currently on campus, I work with an ecology and evolutionary biology professor doing both lab work and field work.

Cornell’s academics are amazing in their own right, but another aspect I love about this university is the dedication to sustainability and environmentalism. Originally, when I arrived last year, I did not know what I wanted to study or what clubs I wanted to join. Cornell, however, exposed me to so many different clubs on campus, through which I fell in love with sustainability. While I cared about the subject in high school, I’ve now developed a complete passion for it. I am honored to work with so many like-minded individuals to advance our mission of sustainability on campus. I love how Cornell has allowed me to explore my passions and supported me as I found one that I want to make a career out of.

Posing with a couple of friends I made on the floor of my freshman dorm:)

Posing with just a couple of friends I made on the floor of my freshman dorm:)

The best parts of Cornell for me, however, are the people I meet and the community we create. The first semester of freshman year, I was nervous that I wouldn’t make friends in a place so far away from my hometown. That fear was totally unfounded! We are so diverse that there is a group for everyone, and I have definitely found my group. My friends have helped me grow personally, and they support me in all my endeavors. I know that if I’m having a hard time, I have them to fall back on. I know that I can banter with them and talk about anything. I know that I can ask for help when I need it. I know that in ten years, I can call them and it will be like nothing has changed. They are the reason why I love Cornell so much, why I have so much Big Red pride, and why I know I’m going to cry when we go separate ways after graduation. Together all Cornellians, students, faculty, and staff work to bring out the best in all of us. We grow together and support each other. I could not love this school more.

Celebrating the Cornell Community’s Passion for Learning

One word sums up this post and its author’s message about Cornell’s intellectually diverse community: passionate. In this last November post, junior Carlee Moses describes how the spirit of interdisciplinary inquiry first drew her to Cornell. Enjoy!

By: Carlee Moses ’18

The first time I ventured down Libe Slope I took this picture. The sun was just hitting the Slope in the most amazing way!

I took this picture the first time I ventured down Libe Slope. The sun was just hitting the Slope in the most amazing way!

To me, the spirit of Cornell is defined by the diverse and varied passions of its students, faculty, and staff. When I first arrived at Cornell a little over two years ago, I was so impressed and intrigued by the conversations I overheard as I wandered around campus. I remember people were discussing American politics, the human body system, books and articles they had recently encountered, foreign affairs, research studies they had either read about or participated in, the future of our planet Earth, and the scientific reasoning behind how Tums help to better stomach ailments. As a self-proclaimed Tums addict, overhearing that specific conversation was truly life-changing. Cornellians do what they love and love what they do, and they are always willing to share their particular academic passion with others.

The spirit of Cornell has definitely shaped my own college experience. In my classes, my peers always bring a diverse range of academic backgrounds to class discussions. Through this, I am able to gain new and different perspectives on class material. For example, in Politics of Public Policy last semester, Professor Michener often had us break into groups and discuss specific policies or policy areas. One day, she asked us to brainstorm a policy that we believed would better the American prison system. One of my group members, a student in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), had worked on a project that created a plan to put former prisoners to work in environmentally friendly businesses. She shared with us her plan, and the knowledge she had learned in ILR. Because of her different academic background and viewpoint, she was able to provide me with a different perspective and a new idea. In my personal life, my friends also represent a varied range of passions: from the social sciences to the physical sciences, American studies to Near Eastern Studies, Hotel Administration to Urban Planning, Architecture to Industrial and Labor Relations, and economics to Earth science and sustainability, each of the friends I have made at Cornell has their own unique passion. The commonality is that each of my friends, and every person in the larger Cornell community, is equally passionate.

My friends and I took a break from finals studying to watch the sunset on a warm December evening.

My friends and I took a break from finals studying one year to watch the sunset on a warm December evening.

As a current junior, Cornell has pushed me to strengthen my passions, and also discover new ones. When I arrived on campus in August 2014, I knew that I loved history – specifically, American history. I need to dive deeper than the textbook synopsis versions of historical events. I want to know the stories behind the people I study. Who and what made these people who they were? It wasn’t until I met one of my now closest friends here at Cornell, a Near Eastern Studies major, that I decided to take my studies outside of the Western world, and enrolled in a course on Iran. This course made me want to know more about the Middle East, encouraging me to pursue more classes in the Near Eastern Studies department, and igniting within me a new passion.

When I sit in some of my favorite places on campus, I still can’t help but listen in to the conversations I overhear. It’s been more than two years since I arrived at Cornell, and my peers continue to blow me away. This spirit of Cornell – the diverse and deep passions of the Cornell community and the drive to pursue them – initially drew me here, and it’s what has made my college experience so absolutely transformative.

Spotlight on ENGL 2810 (and 3830, 3840, 4800, 4801, etc etc): Creative Writing at Cornell

Happy Halloween! In our last post for October, senior Anna Ravenelle discusses her experiences with the creative writing program within the English department. For her and for many others, creative writing classes provide an opportunity to explore the arts while earning credit and getting feedback from esteemed authors and poets.

By: Anna Ravenelle ’17

As an English major, I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to work in the publishing field or even write professionally. At Cornell, I’ve channeled that into a course-load full of English classes, but most prominently, as many creative writing courses as possible. Arts and Sciences offers three levels of creative writing courses: the introductory class, a 2000-level, instructs in both narrative and verse writing, while intermediate (3000-level) and advanced (4000-level) courses split off into two tracks for aspiring novelists and poets. Even if you’re just curious about writing creatively, however, taking ENGL 2810 can still be a great addition to a semester’s schedule—once you finish up those First-year Writing Seminar requirements!

Just because it's a creative writing course doesn't mean you don't read, too! Check out some of the books I've had to read for my classes over the years.

Just because it’s a creative writing course doesn’t mean you don’t read, too! Check out some of the books I’ve had to read for my classes over the years.

Each section of creative writing differs depending not only on the instructor, but on your fellow classmates. The courses are set up in a seminar format where you have an assigned workshop day where your work will be discussed by the rest of the class. Each new story or poem from a classmate brings something new to the table and, because of this, I often find myself learning just as much about writing from my fellow classmates’ collective knowledge as I do from my professor.

Which professor instructs your section can also make the class an entirely different experience – some professors give broad, open-ended prompts (or no prompts at all!) while others give more specific ones to inspire your writing. No matter, the entire creative writing faculty are well-respected and published in the field and can help shape your writing, whether you’re taking the class to complete an elective requirement or writing to reach your career goals.

Beyond teaching writing semantics, creative writing workshops also foster important, resumé-worthy skills: how to give (and take) constructive feedback, how to make your voice heard in a group conversation, and how to adjust to a shifting workload—some nights a classmate’s story will be six pages, while others’ stories will be three times that length. Most importantly for me, though, creative writing classes can offer an outlet for creative energies that many students (like myself) find difficult to make time for otherwise. When you have two prelims the next week, it can be hard justifying taking the time to paint or play music, but writing for class can have the same cathartic effect while also helping cross something off your to-do list.

Spotlight on COML 3111: Literature, Art, and the Environment

This week, sophomore and new Ambassador Julia Curley discusses how a class she took outside of her major has allowed her to embrace the interdisciplinary nature of the College of Arts and Sciences, and has kindled interests in new fields – including undergraduate publishing!

By: Julia Curley ’19

For English and Art History double majors like me, the course roster offers a multitude of options. The variety of classes that fit under my major requirements make each semester interesting in a new way, and the range of expertise in our professors never fails to impress me. This fall, I chose to take COML 3111: Literature, Art, and the Environment, and it’s even cooler than I had originally hoped.

Heating and Cooling Plant

This is a photo I took during our recent class trip to the Cornell Heating and Cooling Plant.

Despite the course not counting towards my English major, I added COML 3111 to my schedule because I hoped to apply my interest in the English language to current issues. Professor Pinkus, currently chairing the Advisory Board of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, describes this practice as “comparative literature ‘field work’.” As a student with interests ranging from General Biology to Modern Art, I needed to take this class.

Now half-way through the semester, I feel like a literature scientist. Professor Pinkus brings the study of language to life not just in our discussions but in field trips outside the classroom. This past week, we visited the Cornell Heating and Cooling Plant for a tour. The Plant, a place I never thought I’d visit on Cornell’s campus, fueled our study of the environment. We saw energy “ruins” and the campus’s central water pipeline. Returning to the classroom, we discussed what we learned through our humanistic lens. What does “environmental footprint” really mean? How do we express scientific concepts in an accessible way? What do energy production landscapes look like?

Our visit to the Plant, along with other shorter excursions including a walk around the A.D. White House, bring life to our research. Sometimes, language studies and the humanities in general can feel limiting in their real-world scope. Professor Pinkus and the College of Arts and Sciences prove otherwise. This course has shown me that humanities majors can bring a different perspective to scientific issues, and we can provide insight into what solutions to environmental issues will really mean to people. In addition to honing my interest in biology, COML 3111 has introduced me to other students who are exploring a variety of passions here in the College. Realizing our unique perspectives, several of us have joined together to produce a comparative literature magazine. We hope to publish our first issue this November!

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.