October 28, 2003

Real Life @ Cornell Addresses Student Needs

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From the overwhelmed freshman to the concerned Cornellian in search of a discussion forum, the “Real Life @ Cornell” program fosters dialogue between students and attempts to address student needs through a campus-wide initiative which has been in place since Spring 2002.

A group of 16 different student services offices sponsor and coordinate the program, which is funded primarily by the Dean of Students Office of Student Support. Individuals from different offices volunteer their free time in order to respond to student crises on campus through workshops, support groups, video presentations or discussion seminars. Each of the seminars and workshops focus on different themes and topics geared toward fostering student interests and interactive discussion.

“We developed this idea of the ‘Real Life @ Cornell’ program by asking how could we promote student well-being, life-skills, and how could we help students be more effective in life, while meeting what we felt were unmet needs,” said Tanni Hall ’76, Associate Dean of Students for Student Support, who serves as the overall coordinator for the program. “So what a number of us did was to come together in a campus-wide, coordinated way to bring together different areas of expertise that benefits students.”

All of the services are free, which makes them quite popular with graduate and international students. Not only do the programs benefit students, but it seems that the Student Services staff involved get a boost from the programs as well.

“It gives Student Services staff an opportunity to step out and offer something they might have thought they were offering in isolation,” Hall said. “The staff that participate feel the ‘Real Life @ Cornell’ program is effective and enjoyable because it’s different from what they do everyday, and so we definitely intend to keep the program going.”

Though the “Real Life @ Cornell” program could not be offered during the Fall 2002 and Spring 2003 semesters due to a shortage of available volunteers, a wide variety of issues concerning students were already addressed by the first run of the “Real Life @ Cornell” program in Spring 2002. For example, one of the seminars addressed the issue of credit card management, while another popular video and discussion series dealt with the matter of racial relations. Also, in response to the campus-wide introduction of the “One Vision, Many Voices” diversity-education initiative two years ago, “Real Life @ Cornell” is continuing to sponsor a number of follow-up discussion groups that provide a forum for student discourse.

In the future, the organizers of “Real Life @ Cornell” hope to increase the number and diversity of programs that they sponsor.

“We hope to expand the number of programs that we offer next semester and encourage any student services professional or faculty member who is interested in offering a program, discussion group or workshop to make it a part of the ‘Real Life @ Cornell’ program,” Hall said.

So far, Real Life @ Cornell has sponsored such programs as “Taking Care of Business,” a seminar on combating procrastination that featured Laure Conklin Kamp, a speaker from Gannett: Cornell University Health Services, in addition to the continuing series “Cornell Metamorphosis,” a seminar designed to help freshmen students navigate the social and academic scene at Cornell.

Currently, some of the other programs that “Real Life @ Cornell” is sponsoring include Sister Chat, a support group for women of color held every Wednesday in the Ujamaa Lounge from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Q-Chat, a support group devoted to LGBT issues held in the LGBT Resource Center every Thursday from 4:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., and Tibetan Buddhist Mediation, held every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in Anabel Taylor Hall at 12:15 p.m. Though most of the programs do not require registration, some of the discussions groups do in order to keep the size of groups small.

Archived article by Kim Mok