December 4, 2003

The 25 Most Influential Cornell Undergrads

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With over 13,000 undergrads to choose from, how did we ever pick 25 for this list? Put another way, how do you make a difference in a place as dauntingly large as Cornell? Some of the people on our list have devoted four years and an inordinate amount of time to founding or developing just one organization, fostering it to a position of influence that was unthinkable until they came along. Others have provided exemplary leadership to large, and sometimes foundering, cornerstones of student life. Still others have forged ties between the school and the town, or pursued one cause across many fronts. The one thing they all seem to have in common is this: no matter how impressive the accomplishments or stuffed the schedule, they all listed interests and activities that had very little to do with the organization for which they are known. They mention Ultimate Frisbee right along with Saving The World with Solar Energy on their resumes. This says to us that, by and large, these students are so influential because they love everything they do. Who says passion isn’t constructive?

Afsha Abid — After contributing to world peace, what do you do for an encore? Afsha Abid of Staten Island, N.Y., was a Recipient of the James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial Understanding and Harmony for the Hillel-MECA Mosaic Project. Along with her Hillel counterparts, Abid has continued to work for better relations between Cornell’s Jewish and Muslim students. She is also a CALS Ambassadors Executive Board Member, and the secretary of Public Relations for Muslim Educational and Cultural Association. After graduation, Abid will pursue a career in Marketing.

Melissa Ariate — Fort Worth, Texas native Melissa Ariate is the President of the Minority ILR Student Organization (MILRSO) and the Minority Liaison to the Student Assembly. She maintains that she “doesn’t have a greatest accomplishment, but it is definitely an honor to have the opportunity to serve my community and make sure that the voice of students of color is heard on Cornell’s campus.” Next year, she plans on attending law school.

Ka’Ron Barnes — Ka’Ron A. Barnes is point guard on the varsity basketball team, and 2nd team All-Ivy. He has been voted captain two years in a row, as well as team MVP. As these honors demonstrate, his teammates respect what Barnes does on and off the court. Besides being an excellent and friendly guide to younger players, Barnes has broken school records in assists. Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Barnes is undecided as to his path after graduation but both pro ball and a marketing position are possibilities.

Lisa Broadnax — Lisa Broadnax was Treasurer of MILRSO in 2003 and is the current Co-Chair of the Student Assembly Finance Commission. But her greatest joy at Cornell has been raising over $26,500 for the endeavors of Les Femmes de Substance, “a Mobilization through Sisterly Love.” The Chicago, Ill. native has big dreams. “When I grow up, I want to be a successful Labor Arbitrator and contributing writer for a major women’s magazine publication addressing issues of Labor Economics of low-income families.”

Karleigh Burns — Field hockey captain Karleigh Burns was 2nd team all Ivy 2002 NFHCA Division I National Academic Squad. She has also received the Cornell Field Hockey Cup ’91 Award for freshman with the most potential. Off the field, Karleigh, from lovely Ambler, Pa. is a member of the Red Key Honor Society. Karleigh is currently applying for Teach for America and investigating looking into space planning positions with a consulting or architecon.s firm.

Peter S. Cohl — Think Cornell’s a pressure cooker? Try going to school and raising two kids at the same time. Mature student Peter Cohl is Chair of Cornell’s Image Committee, President of Students for Dean. and, oh yes, a Rhodes Scholar. A Detroit, Mich. native, Cohl is most proud of “getting Cornellians excited about remaking our image and demanding the respect we deserve.” He plans to acquire a J.D. and/or a PH.d and to use his plethora of degrees to “remake images, cities, and society with intensity and verve.”

Betsy Cooper — Betsy Cooper says that she hopes to eventually become an immigration lawyer with a specialty in refugee policy. But we have a feeling that, if she wanted to, she could rule the world. In her four years here, she’s founded the Cornell Political Coalition and been named Truman Scholar and a 2000 Presidential Scholar. So who’s going to argue with the girl from Amherst, N.Y. when she says she “dreams of a wonderful husband, 2.5 children, a cat and a white picket fence.”

Brian Donnelly — Brian Donnelly knows the secrets of Cornell. He’s Historian of the prestigious Quill & Dagger, Battalion commander in ROTC, member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Semper Fidelius. Donnelly, however, still considers his greatest accomplishment to be the rehabilitation under his Presidency of his fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, after it was almost eliminated for hazing. Hailing from South Plainfield, N.J., Brian will be be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps after graduation.

Meghan Dubyak — Proving once and for all that members of AAP can actually be found outside of Rand or Sibley, Meghan Dubyak is President of the Cornell Panhellenic Association and Student Legislative Assistant, Cornell Office of Government and Community Relations. Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Dubyak spent a formative summer in the big city on a Government Scholars Fellowship working in the Mayoral offices and with city agencies. After she graduates, she will “pursue a career in legislative politics. Eventually, I’d love to run for public office.”

Paul El-Meouchy — As president of the IFC, Paul El-Meouchy has concerned himself endlessly with sex and drugs. To put it more accurately, Paul designed and implemented both SHAG (Sexual Health Awareness for Greeks) and the BYOB policy. While the alcohol policy still has a ways to go, SHAG has been a resounding success in its mission to educate new members of the Greek community about STD and sexual assault prevention. A native of Montreal, Quebec, Paul hopes to “work for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affaires.”

Nathalie Fassi