November 4, 2003

Scholars Show Work, Activism

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The Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars hosted its first symposium on leadership activities last night.

The symposium, held in the Williard Straight Hall Memorial room, showcased a diverse selection of activities Cornell student leaders are involved in.

Goals

“It’s geared for National Scholars,” said Christopher Lim ’05, explaining that the event was primarily for new members of the Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars program. According to Lim, the Cornell general public was also invited to the event for similar reasons.

“They can see what leaders are actually doing,” he said.

At the symposium, students manned poster displays of the organizations in which they are involved. Represented organizations included everything from Tzedek, the Hillel committee for social justice, to Cornell EMS, the Student Activity Finance Commission and Engineers Without Frontiers.

Many organizations emphasized community service activities, such as REACH.

“It’s a tutoring program run through the Public Service Center,” explained Elisa Dimas ’05.

“To me, leadership is all about public service,” said Betsy Cooper ’04, a Meinig scholar who spoke later in the evening.

Several speakers addressed the audience of about 45 people in between discussing and viewing displays about the represented activities.

Sheena Lee ’05, president of MFCNS, started the talks with a few remarks about the impact of the Meinig Family program and its members.

“The leaders you see here today have all made their mark in the Cornell community,” she said.

After Lee’s remarks, the two featured speakers both addressed the topic of what makes a good leader.

First, Cooper spoke about how Cornell students can become better leaders.

“I like to think I grew into a campus leader, always with Meinig Family Scholars catapulting me along the way,” she said. Cooper founded and was the first president of the Cornell Political Coalition. She was the junior winner of the 2003 MFCNS Excellence in Leadership Award and has received a Truman Scholarship.

She had some advice specifically for younger Cornell students in general and new Meinig Scholars in particular.

“Keep looking for your niche,” she said, sharing her personal experience with a “random internship” where she discovered a career in immigration and refugee policy. She also had specific advice for over-achievers like herself.

“Changing your mind is not failing,” Cooper said, repeating the statement to emphasize how important she felt that advice was.

After Cooper spoke, Mary George Opperman, vice president of human resources, followed with a speech about different elements that make “the very best leaders.”

“The very best leaders believe in what they lead,” she said. “The very best leaders know how to listen and do it in a way that makes you feel you were listened too. … The very best leaders have are compassionate.”

One of the elements she stressed most strongly was a sense of humor.

“If they don’t have a sense of humor, they probably have no vision . . . no compassion.”

Opperman also talked about how working with Meinig scholars students makes her feel.

“You give us great hope for the future,” she said in her conclusion.

Following the two featured speakers, Kristine M. DeLuca-Beach, director of MFCNS, closed with a few remarks about the purpose of the symposium itself.

“This is our first attempt to showcase the activities we know National Scholars are involved in,” she said.

The Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars is an organization of students selected during the admissions process for their potential leadership. According to their website, each year, MFCNS chooses about 50 new students from all seven colleges and a variety of geographic backgrounds. MFCNS is the leadership-oriented branch of the Cornell Commitment, which also is the umbrella organization for the Cornell Tradition and Presidential Research Scholars programs.

Archived article by Sarah Colby

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