November 30, 2006

The 25 Most Influential Cornellians

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Every year, as the fall semester winds down and exams loom just ahead, the editorial board of The Cornell Daily Sun looks to faculty and staff for help and feedback in order to undertake one of its toughest assignments of the year: choosing, amongst 13,000-odd incredibly talented undergraduates, the best of the best. While we know that Cornell graduates are the ones changing the world, we’d like to give credit to 25 students who are making a difference already, here in Ithaca and around the world. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about your classmates, and more importantly, follow their example.

David Bean

With Greek life providing the social backbone for nearly 30 percent of the campus, there is no question that strong leadership is essential. That’s where David Bean comes in. Since being elected president of his fraternity, Delta Phi, Bean quickly made moves in the Greek system to head the Interfraternity Council. During his yearlong tenure, Bean has worked closely with campus administration and fraternity chapters to pass the Recruitment Resolution, making events safer for both prospective rushes and brothers during Rush Week.

Liz Bishop

When Elizabeth Bishop arrived at Cornell in the fall of 2003, volleyball was just one of 36 varsity teams on campus. Four years later, she is co-captain of a squad that will play in the opening round of the NCAA tournament tomorrow for just the third time in program history and the second year in a row. Besides that, she’s torn apart the record books, earned back-to-back Ivy League Player of the Year honors, helped the Red to three consecutive league crowns, and was the first All-American in program history when the AVCA named her an honorable mention after the 2005 season.

Tiffany Brutus

When Tiffany Brutus became president of the Multicultural Greek Letter Council (MGLC), she had one goal: to change the perception that it had on campus. According to Brutus, the organization, which is a conglomeration of minority fraternities and sororities, did not have the same name recognition that Pan-Hellenic and Intra-fraternity councils do. “No one really knew who we were” Brutus explained, “no one knew what we did.” In order to establish MGLC’s reputation, she involved the council heavily in community events. One event Brutus is particularly proud of is the MGLC’s participation in Relay for Life. She also helped the council apply for and ultimately win seven awards offered by the Northeast Greek Leadership Association. The wins were particularly significant for the MGLC, because it was the first time the organization had even submitted an application for them. “It really was an accomplishment for me because I dedicated my time making sure we applied for these awards,” she said.

Justin Davis

As president of the Black Student Union, Justin Davis knows how to organize and coordinate many events, but the largest by far was organizing Katrina on the Ground, a national initiative that sent about 2,000 students from across the country to spend their spring break helping repair New Orleans. “I’m looking to do things that affect Cornell, but on the larger stage, outside of the campus.” He works as a tour guide for the University and served as an R.A. in the dorms. He may be pre-law and pre-med, but he has already achieved success.

Graham Dow

On the morning of Nov. 25, senior Graham Dow was in Toronto for an interview, the final step in the application process to become a Rhodes Scholar. As soon as the interview was over, he jumped in a car with his parents to go to Binghamton, N.Y., where he was still putting on his uniform as the national anthem was playing before the men’s basketball team’s game against the Bearcats. It was just another normal day for Dow, who has been balancing a rigorous academic courseload as an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major with duties as point guard for the Red since his freshman year.

Shane Dunn

Shane, though he has spent only four semesters at Cornell, has done more for the community than most of us can accomplish in eight. As a team leader for POST, he looks to positively impact new Cornellians even before they walk on The Hill. Shane, the project coordinator for Into the Streets, organized its most successful incarnation yet. 1,100 Cornellians volunteered for service, twice as many as ever before. Not only the largest day of service in Cornell history, Into the Streets was also the first time ever that a day of service organized by students broke the 1,000 participant mark.

Corey Earle

The apostle of Cornell history, Corey knows the ins and outs of our campus better than anyone since perhaps Ezra himself. His love of Cornell history is apparent in everything he does, as evidenced by his bi-weekly column in The Sun. He’s graded the papers of over 700 students working as a T.A. As president of the Glee Club, he is head of the oldest student organization, and keeps up with one of the largest alumni bases of any group. On top of all that, he’s the president of Quill & Dagger, the mysterious senior honor society.

Erica Fink

In March of 2006, Erica Fink assumed the position of The Sun’s Editor-in-Chief, continuing the reign of terror inflicted by EIC’s named Erica, yet also managing to add her own, well, terrifying influence on the office by asking for the impossible. A partial list of her demands includes: journalistic integrity (whatever that is), headlines that are spelled correctly and, most ridiculously, a ban of drunken layout and fact-checking, at least from Sunday through Wednesday. While the position has without a doubt put her through the wringer — by her accounts, she’s gotten about two hours of sleep over the last semester — Erica still finds the time to order an excellent variety of pizzas for our Sunday meetings and berate each section of the paper, too. In (partial) truth, for such an imposing position, it’s hard to take Erica seriously since she’s always smiling and cracking sarcastic responses, which just might be why we tolerate her as our boss.

David Gelinas

Some college students plan their entire lives around their first political campaign. David Gelinas waited until the ripe old age of 20 to win his first election. As the Councilman for the City of Ithaca’s 4th Ward, he is personally responsible for the Collegetown Vision Task Force, a body which will bring new businesses to Collegetown through a Merchant’s Association. Among his many accomplishments, perhaps the most important to college students will be a new traffic light at the intersection of Dryden and College Ave.

Lizz Giorgios

Ever wonder who is in charge of ensuring that everything goes smoothly the day a hot band comes to Cornell? Look no further than Lizz Giorgios, production director for Concert Commission and chair of the Slope Day Programming Board. Coming to Cornell focused on the sciences, Giorgios quickly got immersed in activities, abiding the mantra that what is really learned in college can be found outside the classroom. Next semester, Giorgios will stage manage the Beat Box Barn production at the Schwartz Center, and prepare for Slope Day 2007 — but don’t even think about asking her who’s coming!

Sobriqué “Sorby” Grant

After organizing Into the Streets for two years, Sorby now serves as the executive director at On Site, the student-run non-profit organization. They connect Cornell students to the Ithaca community through volunteer projects. She also volunteers with the Public Service Center and runs an Alternative Breaks trip to Kensington Welfare Rights Union. After a trip in which she worked closely with homeless LGBT youth, Sorby decided that dedicating herself to social justice through public service would be her life path.

Ethan Hawkes

This past summer, Ethan Hawkes consulted in Lebanon through USAID, a nonprofit U.S. agency. He was also sponsored by the Cornell Center for Peace Studies to study the connection between tourism and peace. Hawkes’ time in Lebanon was not his first encounter with international research or the hospitality industry. Two summers ago, Hawkes lived and worked in Jamaica funded by a Cornell Presidential Research Scholarship. Hawkes recently published a journal article on how local Jamaican properties can compete with larger multi-national resorts.

Colin Heath

It’s no wonder Colin Heath was able to complete a 26-mile marathon last year, for the young entrepreneur appears to have an inexhaustible drive. As a freshman, Heath co-founded the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. Now its president, Heath calls the fraternity one of his greatest accomplishments, because it allows him the opportunity to lead a lot of “really strong people whom I respect.” Heath also started HUGS (Hats, Underwear, Gloves and Socks), a program that collects and redistributes cold weather accessories to the local homeless. The idea for the program originated this past summer when, as an investment bank intern, Heath was saddened by the poverty he saw just across from his office. “There were all these homeless people in the park” said Heath, “and there were people making millions of dollars less than 20 yards from them.” Heath is also an SAFC commissioner, a member of SHAG and a Food Fellow.

Kevin Hwang

Want to spread your ideas to campus across the nation and internationally? Talk to Kevin Hwang. He founded the Triple Helix, the international journal of science, society and law. Initially only a Cornell publication, the helix spread to include 27 chapters other schools in the United States and internationally, including MIT, Oxford and Cambridge. Hwang is an advisor to HUG Me — an AIDS awareness organization, does research in a microbiology lab, is on the Academic Integrity Hearing Board and is a member of Pi Delta Psi.

Tony Marks-Block

As a student activist, Tony Marks-Block knows how to get results. He founded the Environmental Justice Working Group, which worked to create a new course on environmental justice. He helped the Cornell Organization for Labor Action push the Cornell Store to get its clothing from non-sweatshop labor. Through these groups and the Prison Activist’s Coalition and Student Advocates for Palestine, he “empowers people to make changes that can take place right on campus.” He was also awarded a Udall Scholarship.

Scott Reich

“I’m just full of love,” Scott Reich said. While The Sun has known and loved Reich for four years now, first as a Sun staff writer and then as a columnist, we’re not the only people who have been touched by his devotion to Cornell. For two years, he served as co-chair on the Orientation Steering Committee, and this year’s freshmen may remember his speech from Convocation urging them to take advantage of all the opportunities Cornell has to offer and how to navigate the tricky waters of the college world.

Topher Scott

Topher has wasted no time making an impact on the Cornell and Ithaca communities. The assistant captain of the men’s hockey team cemented his status as a fan favorite amongst the Lynah Faithful early on with a series-clinching, overtime goal against Clarkson in the ECACHL quarterfinals during his freshman year. But making an impact on the ice hasn’t been enough. “It’s good to give back to people who have helped us out so much” Scott said. By selling teddy bears to fans, Scott’s initiative has already raised over $6,000 for the Franziska Rackers Center and the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance.

Kathryn Seely

It’s funny how, to become Pan-Hellenic President, you must be devoid of all qualities associated with your average “sorority girl.” Katie has never engaged in a “cat fight” per se, though she has had run-ins with animals ranging from aquatic to barnyard in pursuit of her career as a veterinarian. Katie acts as the liaison between Cornell’s 12 sororities, the University and their national chapters. Her term ends with a ceremony more defining than a Baptism, Christening or Bat Mitzvah — Rush. She gracefully supervises the 1,000+ girls currently in the Greek system and will help usher in pledge class 2010.

Calvin Selth

Heard of HOMOcoming? Calvin Selth started the planning to add this fall equivalent of the Queer Prom in the spring. When not planning dances, he serves as LGBTQ representative on the S.A., directs and performs in Teatrotaller Latin, has been a leader in HAVEN, the umbrella organization of all LGBTQ groups on campus, has worked at the LGBTQ resource center, has written for the Cornell Moderator and lives in the Telluride House.

Peng-Wei Tan

Most freshmen come to Cornell as wide-eyed, inexperienced 18 year olds; Peng-Wei Tan came to school as a 21-year-old officer in the army. Peng spent two years in the Singapore Armed Forces before starting school, an experience that he says, “brought out the leader in me and the drive to excel in everything.” These leadership skills did not go unused during Peng’s time at Cornell. At the end of his sophomore year, Peng started CHC, Hospitality Consultants. The business, which is now a part of Student Agencies, helps its various clients develop their business strategies. Along with being the founder CHC, Peng is also the president of Ye Hosts Honorary Society, the Hotel School’s honor society. As president, Peng helped instate the Latin honors system into the hotel school, which is an honor that he himself will enjoy when he graduates in June. Peng plans to work for Morgan Stanley next year.

Rayon Taylor

The men’s track and field program at Cornell has set new standards for excellence recently, with the men’s team capturing six of the last seven Heptagonal championships. However, Ray found a way to raise the bar, as he became the first Cornellian to claim an NCAA Regional title last spring. Academically, Ray is a member of AKPsi, as well as an employee in the ILR school’s Career Services Office. Another mission Taylor has undertaken is representing the student voice on the University Hearing Board, where he sits on the Operations Committee and the Financial Committee.

Kwame Thomison

“Nobody’s voice at this university is small. The people who speak are the one’s that are heard,” says Kwame Thomison. Having served on the Student Assembly (SA) for four years and climbed the ranks to become president, Kwame has certainly been a testimony to his own words. As president, Kwame fought hard with administrators to make course evaluations public. In addition, he spearheaded the Cornell off-campus task force, helping to improve communication between landlords and students.

Justin Weitz

Though Justin is probably one of the most controversial student leaders on campus as president of CIPAC, it’s this controversy that helps make Cornell as fascinating as it is. We don’t have to think hard to find examples of Weitz’s public efforts — just days ago, he was extremely influential in bringing former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to campus. Weitz has also worked tirelessly in other public forums, including bias in the media, education beyond the classroom, and even headed up the 2006 Cornell Mock-Election.

Harlan Work

Many students might know him in his role as life-of-the-party-extraordinaire, but Harlan Work’s element is really on stage. As a double-major in Theatre Arts and English, Work has performed with undergraduates and professionals alike in the many venues at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Handling both the tragedy of Shakespeare’s Othello and the rioutous comedy Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapine Agile with uncanny flexibility and skill, Work has quickly become a regular, and much welcome, presence in the theatre.

Ariel Zimmerman

Ariel managed to get 3,200 people to come learn about bugs. With an attendance more than twice as large as that of last year’s, Insectapalooza was nothing short of a success as the major outreach event for Cornell entomology. An entomology and biology double major, Ariel’s love of critters, both six-legged and eight, suffuses her entire body of work, including her research, which includes work on spider social behavior. As a Biology student advisor, she works as a mentor for her freshman advisees. By helping to guide them, she makes it easier for many a confused freshman to find the right path to take in the Cornell community through their work in the Bio department. Ariel’s passion for getting people interested in science is not only reserved for undergraduates however, as her work as a workshop coordinator for Expanding Your Horizons also puts her in contact with middle-school girls who come to the Cornell campus to get a head start and learn more about science. This enthusiasm to turn people on to the path of science surely makes this Portland, Oregon native an influential Cornellian.