March 12, 2014

Cornell Tradition Opens to International Students

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For the first time in the program’s history, the Cornell Tradition will be open to international student applicants, according to Kristine DeLuca, director of the Cornell Commitment Office, which oversees the scholarship program.

Starting this semester, freshmen, sophomore and junior international students can apply to become Cornell Tradition Fellows — who complete a total of 250 hours of work or service every academic year and receive financial benefits as part of the program, according to DeLuca.

Enrico Bonatti ’14, international liaison at-large for the Student Assembly, said he has worked with administrators for the last two years to push for the inclusion of international students in the program. He said he credits the change as being caused by an increase of campus awareness on international student issues.

“[It is] thanks to increased awareness of international issues by the administration and thanks to more pressure from passionate international students, myself included,” Bonatti said. “To be honest, I am not sure why no one thought to bring up this issue before me in the past few years, especially since the Cornell Tradition is such a big program.”

When it was established in 1982, Cornell Tradition was strongly tied to the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment, according to DeLuca. Until recently, students applying to become Fellows also had to apply for financial aid, and international students — who do not have the same access to financial aid as American citizens — were not allowed to apply to the program.

“The change in the policy regarding applying for financial aid no longer required [for the program] was made some years ago, independent from anything related to the international student membership consideration,” DeLuca said.

According to DeLuca, students can become a Tradition Fellow in two ways — either by being automatically selected during the freshmen admissions process as high school students or by applying in spring semester of their freshman, sophomore or junior year. Starting this semester, current international students will be able to apply to enter the program by way of the latter method.

DeLuca also said administrators are considering automatically choosing international applicants for the program during the admissions process.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Undergraduate Admissions Office to consider the possibility and implementation of in the future,” she said.

Another difference is that international Tradition Fellows may not receive the same financial benefits, according to Bonatti. Although Tradition Fellows — regardless of citizenship — will each have access to a $3,500 service support account and wage subsidies for campus employment, international students are not eligible for up to $4,000 annual student loan replacements the program provides for students who receive financial aid.

“We are thrilled that the University has been able to increase the amount of financial aid for our international students over the past five years or so,” DeLuca said. “However, the current financial aid eligibility rules for international students don’t allow our awarding of the Tradition fellowship. … All other benefits [including the $3,500 support account and wage subsidy] of Tradition membership are available.”

Despite these differences, international students said they welcome the opportunity.

“I am certain that this change will make the Cornell Tradition not only more diverse but also much stronger and legitimate due to healthy competition and inclusion of previously excluded students,” Bonatti said.

Students who are already Tradition Fellows also said they support the inclusion of international students.

“This change is great,” said Ari Rubin ’15, chair of the Student Advisory Council of the Tradition program. “Now that we will have international students, we will see even more diversity. I am very excited to volunteer and work with Tradition Fellows from across the globe and see everything that they are passionate about.”

Bonatti also said he hopes that his and the administration’s work to become more inclusive of international students will encourage students to work with other on-campus organizations.

“One of the main takeaways from this resolve is not just that an important program has suddenly become more inclusive of a very large and important group on campus, but also how much students can do and change on campus,” Bonatti said. “All it takes is someone passionate about a fully legitimate and righteous issue to bring it up and push the administration to implement it — and if warranted it will be done.”