May 26, 2016

ALICEA | What I’ve Learned From Cornell (So Far)

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One of the benches at the Sesquicentennial Commemorative Grove bears a quote by Cornell’s second president, Charles Kendall Adams, who said, “Useful things are taught here.” Besides being ironically obvious for a university (and to a greater extent, rather poetic), this phrase has repeatedly surfaced as I’ve begun to reflect upon my time here on the Hill.

Attending a world class research institution such as Cornell, I am not surprised that I received a well-rounded education that enabled me to learn about a variety of subjects, conduct research and challenge myself to teach others. Although I learned a great deal from the numerous instructors I’ve had the pleasure to learn from, I discovered some of the most valuable lessons outside of the classroom (a cliché, no matter how true, expressed by academic advisors everywhere).

Many of these experiences would have been unfathomable if not for The Sun. When I first arrived at Cornell, my academic advisor and I were discussing possible career paths, a conversation during which I disclosed my interest in journalism. He looked at me and said no formal journalism program existed at the University — apparently I was born too late, as Cornell was the first institution to issue a degree in journalism back in the day. What he suggested instead was to work at The Sun.

I joined the organization’s news and design departments as a timid freshman interested in journalism before being swallowed into the paper, rising to become the (sophomore) managing editor and later editor in chief. For over three years, most days in the classroom were spent multi-tasking between learning from instructors and reporting on some of the biggest news facing Cornell. Outside of the classroom, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City for the groundbreaking of Cornell Tech and covered numerous student protests. I interviewed administrators and met distinguished alumni. Wherever the news took me, I went.

So what did I learn about besides university finances and Ithaca’s parking regulations’ effects on Collegetown development? Above all, I’d say I learned how communities come together, whether it be to just dance on a table at The Sun or under more tragic circumstances, such as when the entire campus assembled to honor President Garrett after we learned of her death. It is these moments, large or small, that have the power to change a person, and for me, I have no doubt that these moments taught me more “useful things” about living than anything I learned in the classroom.

Of course, these communities are made up of some of the most remarkable people (we are all Cornellians, after all), who have all taught me something about Cornell. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank some of those individuals.

Thank you to J$tein and Akon for teaching me how to navigate the role of managing editor, as well as a sandwich menu at Shortstop Deli. Jeff, you taught me an absurd amount of information about how to be a journalist and got me hooked on The Sun. Akane, you helped keep me sane when I realized that The Sun could be detrimental to my academic performance and wanted to jump ship.

To Haley and Flax: You supported me even though I was a constant troll in your lives and helped to instigate potential legal threats against The Sun. And I’ll finally admit what you’ve wanted me to say for years now: You two helped me learn to be … cool. Happy? I said it (and in print, too!).

To the Core Four (plus Hamdan): You guys were my rock when we scrambled every night to put out the news section and taught me how to be a better leader. Annie, thank you for keeping me in check and making sure I don’t make too much of a fool of myself. Broah, thanks for listening to me complain about every single problem facing The Sun and for bringing in the sass when needed. And Blombushka, I’m still trying to figure out how you didn’t realize there was a gorge separating Collegetown and campus … so there’s that.

To Jayne and Zach, two of the closest friends I had the fortune of meeting: While you both might think you both won your bet about which leadership position I would one day hold at The Sun, I’m just glad you two didn’t make bets as to whether I would graduate. And of course thank you to Sami, Fasman, Scooter, Liz and Schroeder, who would all find individual ways to embarrass (i.e. blackmail) me if I failed to give them shout-outs. You all rock.

To Gooby and 614, who kept me sane more than any group of non-Sun people could: Thank you for teaching me not to take myself too seriously and how to throw successful “social events,” even if that just meant deep-cleaning an apartment before filling a pumpkin with Bacardi. The six of you have each taught me something about myself and unquestionably have shaped my future career in innumerable ways.

To those involved with the many group projects that I’ve skirted over the years, I’m sorry for not giving you my 100 percent. I likely would have learned so much from you if not for The Sun. But to the 124th group project (the one that went right): You, my best friends, inspire me and teach me novel ideas every day. I love you all.

To my parents and family, all of whom taught me the values that I cherish so much in my everyday life. You supported me through Cornell without waver and for that I am forever grateful.

And lastly, to all of the Cornellians who I’ve had the chance to interact with over the last four years: Each and every one of you taught me something different about yourselves and your story. You have driven me to love Cornell and to continue to learn more about this university and the people that have comprised it, from 1865 to now.

Although I’m sentimental now about finishing my undergraduate career, I will be continuing my education here for another year at the graduate school. I am fortunate to continue learning from others on the Hill, but to be a Cornellian does not end after one leaves Ithaca. I am certain that our alma mater will continue to teach us “useful things” about ourselves and life as we continue to “grow up.” So whether you have yet to finish your education or are moving onto the next chapter, I urge you to continue to embrace this university for all it can teach you.

I know I will.

Tyler Alicea is graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He served as the editor in chief of The Sun’s 133rd editorial board and the managing editor of the 132nd Editorial Board. He may be reached at tra37@cornell.edu.

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