Last semester, my friend Evelyn Torres ’21 woke up at 6:30 a.m. every Wednesday to go to Belle Sherman Elementary School. There, she was a student teacher in a third-grade classroom for three hours as field work for Prof. Jeffrey Perry’s, developmental sociology, EDUC 2410: The Art of Teaching. Although I thought of the experience that prompted her tiredness later that day as a unique one among Cornell students, it turns out that there is a wide array of classes taught far above Cayuga’s waters that include in their curricula engagement in communities close to and far from the lake’s shores.
In CS 5150: Software Engineering, a group of students is working to gamify snow-shoveling so that city sidewalks aren’t impassable for pedestrians of all ages and abilities following snowstorms. This semester, a group of students in GOVT 3121: Crime and Punishment are beginning research with two Cornell professors and a colleague at Ithaca College on the challenges of re-entry faced by those who have intersected with the criminal justice system in Ithaca and Tompkins County. In DEA 2203: StudioShift and DEA 2500: The Environment and Social Behavior, students are collaborating with Tompkins County Action to design a living space for 18 to 25-year-olds who don’t have a safe place to stay at night. These are just a sampling of the various courses which make community engagement not just a supplement to the academic experience at Cornell, but an integral part of it.
And yet, there are still many syllabi, lecture halls and seminars where engagement is limited to the classroom. For every friend I have like Evelyn, I have many more whose academic experiences have been defined more by the spots they study than by interactions with people who don’t come to campus multiple days a week.