For the thousands of freshmen who enter Cornell for the first time in the fall, finding a community while balancing the demands of an unfamiliar environment is a perennially daunting task — and doing so mostly online amid an unprecedented health crisis is that much more challenging.
Aiming to make that process more bearable for new and returning undergraduates alike, Black Students United hosted the typically in-person “Black Life on the Hill” on Thursday night via Zoom, giving students the chance to hear from campus organizations which hone into Black student life.
“I just wanted to say welcome to the freshmen. I know these are kind of weird circumstances that we’re in right now, and my heart really goes out for you guys,” said Ezi Osuoha ’22, co-president of Building Ourselves Through Sisterhood and Service. “But I’m glad that BSU brought us all together so you guys can see the wonderful resources and family that we have in the Black community here at Cornell.”
Leaders from clubs gave brief overviews of their organizations’ missions and application requirements before the event’s over 120 attendees broke out into smaller discussion groups to learn more. Thirty clubs were represented during the course of the two-hour session, spanning the spectrum from social to pre-professional to cultural.
The event was an “amazing success,” said BSU co-chair Lassan Bagayoko ’22. While virtual recruitment remains an unprecedented challenge for Cornell’s campus organizations — typically accustomed to quartercarding and social events to attract and retain new members — Bagayoko said the event’s strong attendance and engagement among attendees showed that it is a more than attainable feat.
Richmond Addae ’23 encouraged students to consider joining Cornell’s Pan-African Student Association, a group that aims to “foster strong solidarity among identifying African-descendent people, allies of the continent … and the scholars of the cultural, political, economic and social issues of contemporary or historical significance to Africa.”
Traditionally, Addae said, one of the club’s marquee events is the Afrik! fashion show, which hosts designers from across the United States to showcase Afrocentric design.
Tyler Correa-White ’21 spoke on behalf of BlackGen Capital, which made history as Cornell’s first underrepresented minority-owned investment fund at the University. The 35-member group is currently working to raise $30,000 in assets under management.
“This org[anization] was started because Black and Hispanic students at Cornell had disproportionately less access to financial education, which is reflected in the greater diversity issue that exists on Wall Street,” Correa-White said.
Rainer Sanvil ’21, co-president of Underrepresented Minorities in Computing, introduced his organization, an over 250-person group dedicated to empowering minorities to seek careers in technological industries. According to Sanvil, the organization offers students a slew of resources, including workshops by companies, member-led office hours, mock interviews and sponsorship to professional conferences.
“We want to make sure we have a lot of participation from a lot of different parties … which is why this event was such an amazing success,” Bagayoko said. “We really tried to pull from the entire community.”
Louis Chuang ’23 contributed reporting.