February 5, 2023

CHASEN | The Many Different Ways to See Cornell

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Cornell’s Ithaca campus, consisting of 2,300 acres with more than 260 buildings, can certainly be described as massive. Yet another word that comes to mind is siloed. On any given day our concept of Cornell may be limited to only a few buildings on campus, depending on our major or school. For example, a student in the College of Engineering who lives in Collegetown may go days or even weeks without seeing the Arts or Ag quads. On the other hand, someone in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who lives on North Campus may rarely see the Engineering Quad.

But there is so much to see at Cornell beyond our classwork, and the few buildings we see on a regular basis. More importantly, there are so many different ways to go about seeing it. 

As a sophomore, I was fortunate to have the chance to enroll in American Studies (AMST) 2001: The First American University, with Cornell historian Corey Ryan Earle. While the course is normally reserved for seniors, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the enrollment cap was lifted and lectures took place on Zoom. My favorite part of the course, though, was the 50-part scavenger hunt that took us from the Cornell Botanical Gardens to Downtown Ithaca and back again. It took me to places I’d never seen before and forced me to notice things hidden in plain sight, like the collection of brains in Uris Hall, the Civil Rights Memorial in Sage Chapel and even the oldest tree on campus. It also provided the crucial function of giving my roommates and me a reason to leave our dorm suite on Saturday afternoons during the pandemic. 

But the course also provided me with a lens that has helped me see where the future of campus may be. The discussion of Cornell’s climate initiatives, including geothermal heating and lake-source cooling, was built upon in lectures about climate change in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) 1540: Introductory Oceanography. Our discussions of Cornell’s financial outlook have carried over into discussions of how the University financed climate infrastructure in a course I’m taking this semester — Public Administration (PADM) 5755: Infrastructure Financing, a graduate course in the Brooks School. And understanding the University’s administrative structure has helped me in various extracurricular activities, such as the Student Assembly and Cornell Votes. 

Yet the most important thing AMST 2001 taught me was to look for different ways to see campus. Whenever I have a moment, I always try to find a different way to get from point A to point B, because on a day when the wind chill is -20 degrees Fahrenheit, it may be helpful to be able to get from Collegetown to Warren Hall while barely going outside (if you must know, my route on Friday went through Upson, Duffield, Statler, Ives and the Plant Sciences Building). I’m always looking for new study spaces across every corner of campus. And I’m always curious to learn more about Cornell history, from past presidents to the history of our sports teams. 

So if you have a moment, or would like to take a break from studying, I urge you to take a walk and explore somewhere on campus you have never been before (once it’s a little warmer, of course). Go into an academic building for the first time, learn about the vast tunnel system under campus, or take in the views from the tallest building in Tompkins County, Bradfield Hall. You might even find your new favorite spot on campus. And if you get the chance, take AMST 2001 and visit all 50 items on the scavenger hunt. I promise you it’ll be worth it. 

Isaac Chasen (he/him) is a senior in the Dyson School. He can be reached at [email protected]Cut to the Chase runs every other Sunday this semester.