December 1, 2014

GUEST ROOM: Cornell at 150: Unique Opportunities for Students During This Sesquicentennial Year

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By NATALIE ROSSEAU

Ezra Cornell’s vision was to found a university where “any person [could] find instruction in any study.” Since 1865, Cornell has positioned student input and experience at the center of its mission. As we prepare for our Sesquicentennial, student voices and experiences are integrated into the celebration by the appointment of a student to the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee and through student-centered contests and engagement opportunities. I was appointed the Undergraduate Representative to the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee in the fall of 2013. I am grateful for the opportunity to explore Cornell’s rich history and to search for ways to connect past, current and future members of the campus community with our founders and their principles. It is an honor and a privilege to work closely with dedicated members of Cornell’s trustees, faculty, staff and students on this once-in-a-sesquicentennial project. As a History major, this appointment has allowed me to reveal the stories of people and events that shaped and continue to inform our present research university. I have been impressed by the extent to which the University values and respects student voices throughout its history.

It is truly an exciting time to be on campus, and I am learning that this excitement is shared by many members of the student body. The University is eager to collect and feature the voices of students during this celebration of Cornell’s 150 years and is hosting several opportunities for students to share their experiences. The MyCornell contests, open to all undergraduate students, offer students the opportunity to narrate their Cornell experiences through an essay or video. The writing and video contests are sponsored by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines and the Department of Performing and Media Arts. The submission period for these contests began on November 15, 2014 and will close on February 2, 2015.

The winners and runners-up of these contests will receive generous cash prizes and will have the opportunity to present their work during Charter Day Weekend, which will take place during April 24-27, 2015. Charter Day Weekend will feature fascinating panels, engaging presentations, literary readings and performances from Cornell faculty, alumni and distinguished guests; it will also spotlight the work of on-campus student innovators. Participation in this weekend affords students the chance to meet and share their ideas with global leaders in a wide variety of fields, including business, the humanities, engineering and the social sciences. Charter Day Weekend gives students the opportunity to be an integral part of celebrating the University’s storied past and crafting the vision for Cornell’s bright future.

Graduate and professional students may participate in the celebration through a Graduate and Professional Student Sesquicentennial Video Contest. Sponsored by the Graduate School and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, this contest seeks to highlight graduate research through 60-180 second videos produced by graduate and professional students. Winners will receive a cash prize. In their emphasis on student voices, both the undergraduate and graduate and professional contests place students at the heart of the scholarship, passion, ingenuity and idealism of a university students have come to love.

The Sesquicentennial website includes additional opportunities to engage: students can upload stories, memories and photos, and they can also join a global choir of Cornellians to sing the alma mater. I encourage students to participate in all of the Sesquicentennial events throughout this academic year and to take advantage of the events during Charter Day Weekend. Current students are fortunate to be on campus during this important year in Cornell history and are uniquely poised to make the most of it, through these exciting and engaging events planned to celebrate 150 years of Cornell innovation.

The Sesquicentennial Steering Committee shares my eagerness to see the energy, passion and creativity that Cornellians will bring to these student contests and engagement opportunities throughout the year. These Sesquicentennial events honor and celebrate our University’s storied past and bright future. If you have any questions or comments, or are interested in becoming more involved in the Sesquicentennial celebration, please do not hesitate to contact me via email.

Natalie Rosseau is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and serves as the Undergraduate Representative to the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee. She can be reached at nar66@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

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