For the last twenty years, the Cornell Tradition has been working to preserve Ezra Cornell’s vision that working students should be rewarded.
“What we are celebrating is 20 years of work, service, and scholarship,” said Susan Hitchcock, program director, of the anniversary.
Each year, the Tradition awards 600 fellowships to undergraduates in all colleges that provide up to $4,000 in financial assistance for tuition as well as financial aid for students working for nonprofit groups and internships.
“The Cornell Tradition has given me so many opportunities,” said Rochelle Carino ’04, who spent a summer in Ghana teaching sixth graders and took an internship with a non-governmental organization in Washington D.C. with Tradition support.
“It has given me insights into the world,” Carino said.
The program was founded during the 1982 to 1983 school year by an anonymous donation of $7 million and now boasts almost 4,000 alumni.
“The Tradition was the primary reason I was able to go back to school as a full time student,” said Darael Mahoney ’97, an assistant director of the program. “It is profound that this program believes in community service.”
The Tradition is kicking off its year-long celebration with an event this Saturday in New York that will be attended by President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes.
“It’s exciting to be bringing together some of the first tradition donors and friends with current and alumni fellows for a celebration,” said Julie Albertson, director of alumni programs.
The Tradition has a minimum service requirement of seventy-five hours per year.
“The community service requirement really reminded you what you owe to society after you graduate,” said Nathaniel Guest ’98, associate director.
According to the Tradition website, over the last 5 years fellows have averaged one hundred sixty-six hours.
Anita Vishwanath ’03 applied last year and renewed her fellowship this year.
“I had the work and service hours anyway so I applied,” she said.
She went to India with support from the summer internship program.
“We went to local villages surrounding the hospital where they hadn’t ever had a checkup before,” Vishwanath said.
Additionally, she spent this past summer at Yale University as part of a medical program.
“The experience was important to my career and they made it possible,” she said.
Vishwanath, who, like other upper-class Tradition fellows is required to work 250 hours during the academic year, is a researcher at the plant genetics lab.
The Tradition legacy began when Cornell University opened in 1868. Ezra Cornell advertised in major newspapers that students wishing to pay for their education could work for the University.
Like today’s Tradition, Ezra Cornell disputed the assumption that work would interfere with academics.
In a letter to the New York Tribune he wrote, “I will assure the boys that if they will perform one-fourth as much labor as I did at their ages, or as I do now at sixty years of age, they will find no difficulty in paying their expenses while prosecuting their studies in Ithaca.”
Archived article by Peter Norlander