Ithaca is Gorges

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Greetings from the lovely upstate New York and Cornell University! I am currently working as a NODA (National Orientation Directors Association) intern in New Student Programs. The first thing I noticed as I step off the plane is how mild the weather was and I thought to myself, “I can do this for a summer.” The next day was in the 90’s with >70% humidity the whole day – I thought I was going to melt. I still find it amazing how much Seattle is stereotyped as a dismal, rainy, depressing city. Granted it is grey most of the year, it is nowhere near the perception my new co-workers have about it. As far as Ithaca goes… it is gorges just as the title says. Despite the east coast traditionally being known as ‘fast paced,’ I find Ithaca to be slower paced, focusing much more on each moment. There are a lot of independent shops and restaurants downtown including three used bookstores! I could literally hang out there all day.

Cornell is a very unique institution. There are a lot of historical influences as well as Ivy League and land grant influences on the politics at Cornell. Four out of the seven colleges on campus are a part of the private institution. Three are funded by land grants and in essence are New York State public colleges. If I was a New York Resident and attended one of the three public colleges, I would pay in state public school tuition. Many students choose to apply to a public college for gen ed and after two years transfer to a private college to get the degree they want. Because it is so geographically large, be design the institution is very siloed and there is a lot of redundancy. For example, the university has an overarching advising and career development center. However, each college has their own advising centers because they think that the overarching department is too general. I asked my supervisor why they don’t eliminate the university wide advising. The answer boils done to a couple of specific needs and the most prominent one is Cornell’s pre-med program. A student can be pre-med in any major, in any college. I could be a pre-med studying architecture and city planning. Since I would be one of maybe five students in architecture as pre-med, the architecture school does not have advisors who are knowledgeable about med school – hence the university advising. Phew… institution quirks always fascinate me.

It has been an amazing experience getting back into orientation. As a part of my role, I am privileged to work with new transfer students as well as transfer orientation leaders (OLs). I am currently working on planning few events specific to transfers and update the assessment for the entire orientation program. One thing I was struggling with when I was traveling to Cornell was how I am going to infuse my passion for social justice, equity, and diversity into my programming. In the face of a predominantly white incoming transfer class, I decided to hold a brunch for transfer students of color mid-orientation week with staff and faculty from diversity and multicultural offices. The amount of support I’ve received from the staff has been amazing. Furthermore, when faced with resistance from some of my student leaders, I have had amazing conversations about the need to support underrepresented students and even dived into helping those students reflect on their own privilege. I was initially concerned about this event but now I feel empowered when working on this campus.

The other interns here are awesome. My ‘CO’ (from North Eastern in Boston, MA) is very energetic and fun to work with. We hang out pretty much all the time and go on adventures around upstate New York – breweries, wineries, gorges, water falls, etc. More than that, we were lucky enough to meet other NODA interns in the area and the ACUHO-I interns at Cornell.

Although I do not think I can live in such a small city (or work at such a geographically large institution), this experience has already taught me so much and has reenergized my passion for student affairs and orientation. I am excited to share my experiences with all of you and hear about your experiences from the summer (whether an internship or out in the real world!).

Go Big Red!

-Brendon

P.S. I’ve been sending folks postcards who have given me their address. If you message/email me your address I will be more than happy to send you one!

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