Category Archives: Work and Community Service

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.

Spotlight on the Summer: Opportunities to Work around Ithaca

Being a student here definitely has its perks – one of the reasons that students choose to attend Cornell is the wealth of opportunities available to us during the school year, during school breaks, and even after we graduate! In our last April post here at the blog, junior Julia Montejo discusses the variety of ways in which she was able to give back to Cornell and the surrounding community through her multiple jobs last summer.

By: Julia Montejo ’17

When I first arrived on campus, I constantly heard about how amazing the summer in Ithaca was. I decided to give it a try last summer, but it came with a huge change of pace: working instead of studying! As a dedicated student with many extracurricular commitments, I love to keep busy. To fill my summer days, I worked at two summer camps, one part time job, and a volunteer position. They were staggered throughout the summer, and made for one of the best summers I’ve ever had.

11856527_1214113771947906_7066314112626275157_oIn June, after visiting in Florida for a month, I came back to Ithaca to begin my job at the Cornell Undergraduate Admissions Office. As a student employee, I spent my mornings setting up, speaking at, and breaking down information sessions for prospective students. I loved meeting the admissions officers and other staff while interacting with students from around the world. Because Cornell visits are really popular during the summer, we had sessions with more than 750 visitors. It was so exciting to be able to share my Cornell experience with so many people. I also became an expert restaurant and campus eatery recommender! I loved being able to suggest places to eat both on and off campus to visiting families.

During June, I also continued my volunteering commitment at Finger Lakes Juvenile Residential Center, a detention center for young men in Ithaca’s next-door town, Lansing. I worked as a volunteer debate coach and helped young men develop their advocacy and public speaking skills.

Some friends and I pose in front of Cascadilla Falls.

Some friends and I pose in front of Cascadilla Falls.

During early July, I worked at the Ithaca Shakespeare Company’s Kids’ Shakespeare Summer Camp. As an actor and passionate student of literature, I had a great time great time working with children for a week, developing their acting skills while teaching about Shakespeare. We prepared all the kids to perform at the Ithaca Shakespeare Festival, where they did a short compilation of texts incorporating many Shakespearean works. It was an amazing experience to meet families throughout Ithaca and to share my passion for acting with younger children.

11793374_10207437398919006_279559027_nAt the conclusion of the summer, during the first week of August, I worked as a camp counselor for the Cornell International Summer Debate Camp. To say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my time as a Cornell student would be an understatement. I was both a residence hall mentor and a teaching assistant for the camp, where I worked with debating experts to develop teaching modules and created fun activities to do in the evenings with the students. Students from all over the world, including China, Canada, the UAE, and Mexico, came to camp, in addition to students from across the United States.

I learned so much from my students and I was able to help them grow as well. I loved being able to share the most important activity from my upbringing as a high school student, debate, with students from around the world.

Jobs and internships are a huge part of the college experience, and mine have been made possible by living in the wonderful City of Ithaca and by being a Cornell student. Once summer came to a close, I was able to continue volunteering at Finger Lakes Residential Center, and I’m still a student employee at the admissions office. I’m so fortunate to be able to continue engaging in what I love during my time as a student and during the summers.

Working at Libe Cafe: A Video Blog

As we close out March, check out this video blog from Jendayi Brooks-Flemister ’18, a student worker at Amit Bhatia Libe Cafe in Olin Library. If you get the chance to visit our Ithaca campus as the weather turns warm, definitely check out Libe Cafe and its many great drink and snack offerings!

My Job at the Office of Campus Life

By: Solveig van der Vegt ’18

I got my job at the Office of Campus Life through an email that was sent out to Balch Hall residents last year. There are many places to get jobs around campus, but this one particularly interested me because it was in the building that I already lived in. I applied and luckily got the job and it has been fantastic ever since! I work not only with fellow students but also with people from outside the university. It is refreshing now and then to talk to people who look at Cornell in a different way and who have a broader perspective on the local community.

office photo

Check out the office!

The job I have is very relaxed and fun. We have a small office in South Balch Hall where we greet visitors and direct people who come to the building for meetings. Besides that, I pick up the phone and either answer people’s questions or if I cannot, I transfer them to a department that can. I also assist other offices in Balch with administrative tasks like filing if necessary. When the office isn’t busy, I’m allowed to do my homework while I am on my shift, which is really nice. I like this job a lot because it allows me to interact with a broad range of people – students, parents, and Cornell staff. The people I work with genuinely care about me and I about them, so it is a wonderful community to be a part of. One of my colleagues sometimes buys me or the other student workers a cookie if we have the final shift of the day, which is always a great surprise and a good note to end the day on!

Overall, my job on campus has given me a different positive perspective on the Cornell community. I enjoy going to work and the money I earn is a good source of income to use to go out to dinner with friends or go to events on campus or even just to treat myself now and then.

Taking a Break from Work…By Working!

By: Eric Reinhard ’18

Does the title confuse you? I don’t blame you if it does. Why would someone take a break from work only to work more? Well, I’m here to tell you that I do just that (I promise I’m not crazy).

Lobby

The lobby of the Residential and New Student Programs Office.

I work at the Residential and New Student Programs office, located in one of the freshman dormitories, Clara Dickson Hall. My official title is Student Administrative Assistant, which might make my work seem a little fancier than it actually is. My job consists of copying, filing, typing, answering phones…you get the idea. Sound boring to you? Maybe. But I can sincerely say I love each and every second of it. There’s something very calming and peaceful about my job. Does the office want me to count out over 4000 quarter cards? No problem. Look through several hundred dormitory keys for a specific key that may not even exist? Sure. While the tasks are relatively simple, I actually really like doing them!

Copy room

The copy room!

Cornell is challenging – few people will argue against that. As a Biological Sciences major on a pre-med track, I am very familiar with the concept of difficult schoolwork. What helps me manage that schoolwork is the four hours per week that I work, where I don’t have to fight my way through challenging concepts or study for hours for an upcoming test. Instead, I do a different type of work, giving my brain a much-needed break. The best part about this “break” of mine? I get paid to do it.

Working on West Campus: A Student Assistant’s Perspective

As the semester heats up (figuratively and literally – it’s 65 degrees here in Ithaca!), we’ve asked Ambassadors to take a break from classwork and share their experiences with “Work and Community Service” on campus during the month of March. Senior Sarah Marie Bruno starts us off with a post about her experience as a Student Assistant in Hans Bethe House. Enjoy!

By: Sarah Marie Bruno ’16

McFaddin Hall

I live in the Gothic building that is part of Bethe House, McFaddin Hall. So basically, I live in a gorgeous castle.

For the past two years, I have worked as a Student Assistant (SA) in Hans Bethe House on West Campus (Bethe is the best dorm at Cornell, not that I’m at all biased). West Campus is a community of five dorms for sophomores, juniors and seniors at the bottom of Libe Slope that integrates learning and living in a friendly and engaging environment. Each house is overseen by a House Professor who leads the educational components of the house’s activities. In Bethe, residents gather every week on the cozy couches in our house professor’s apartment for an informal talk or discussion. These talks are led by a Cornell faculty member or a visiting professor and vary tremendously in subject, providing students with the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of topics regardless of one’s major.

House Dinner

House dinner festivities in Hans Bethe House.

The talks always follow our weekly house dinner, a particularly delicious meal in the house’s dining hall. Residents eat together as a house and have the opportunity to chat with faculty fellows and graduate students.

One of my favorite aspects of the West Campus House system is that it encourages and enables undergraduates to develop meaningful relationships with graduate students and professors. In place of Resident Advisors (RAs), graduate students live in the dorms as Graduate Resident Fellows (GRFs). The GRFs and undergraduate SAs act as resources for residents and help to build a sense of community and belonging to one’s house. As an SA, I have become close to people from all different majors and class years who I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to meet.

Pumpkin carving

Pumpkin carving for Halloween…

Pumpkins

…and the finished products!

I regularly plan and host fun events for my residents and connect students to faculty and other students with similar interests. As a physics major, I have hosted a physics study group in Bethe House in which I help residents with their physics homework. I have also led the Bethe House Council, which is a forum for residents to voice their ideas for new events they would like to see in Bethe.

Salsa dancing

Salsa dance lesson in Bethe

Working as an SA has been an incredible experience for me and is perhaps one of the best aspects of my undergraduate career. I have learned so much from my residents and have grown tremendously in my three years living in Bethe House. Cornell is a huge community, and the dormitory environment really helps residents to navigate that community, network with others, and become active on campus.

Finding a Home Within Cornell

As we dig into the semester, enjoy sophomore Ben Picket’s description of two organizations that have made him feel at home here at Cornell!

By: Ben Picket ’18

Tessa, a guide dog

Tessa, a guide dog in training

I remember going through the college admissions process and weighing the factors that would make my college decision easier. For me, and possibly for many of you, my biggest concern about Cornell was figuring out how to make such a big school feel homey and comfortable. Just as with any college, moving away from home and acclimating oneself to a new environment will initially be a challenge. But, what I found over the course of the past few years, is that involving yourself in a variety of different clubs or groups is an incredible way to meet new people and find yourself a home that you are eager to return to time and time again.

One of my favorite organizations that I am involved with on campus is Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit organization that provides seeing-eye dogs to the visually impaired. Not only do you get to surround yourself with puppies on a weekly basis, but you also get the chance to meet new people whose interests align with your own.

Alpha Kappa Psi

A group photo of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity on campus – I’m in the middle towards the back!

I am also part of a business fraternity on campus that has allowed me to both hone my professional skills and meet some of my best friends. Upon joining a business fraternity, one goes through a 10 week long pledging process that is meant to emulate a summer internship. Through the process, you bond with your pledge class and gain a far greater understanding of what to expect of the job recruitment process.

These are just two of the hundreds of different groups that one can get involved with at our university. With all of the resources at your fingertips, it is far easier than you would expect to find your community on Cornell’s campus.