Jan. 21, 2016

Colleges welcome inaugural first-year spring class

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Hotel Administration and the College of Human Ecology welcome fresh faces to campus this week, as the university’s first group of spring first-year students arrives.

Hailing from places like Florida, California, Kentucky and New York, Australia, Singapore, China, Thailand, Korea and Hong Kong, 115 new first-year students are part of a new admissions program that addresses the more than 100 percent increase in applications to Cornell in the last decade.

Many in the group were full-time students elsewhere during the fall semester or they spent the time volunteering, doing research or traveling.

“One student spent time in rural Thailand to volunteer as an English teacher,” said Irene Lessmeister, advising dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. “One student went abroad and spent the semester at the American University in Paris.”

Janet Li ’19 spent the fall semester taking classes at the University of Texas at Austin.

“What I am most excited about is adjusting to life in Ithaca because I love new places and unfamiliar things,” Li said. “I want to become a part of the Ithaca community with my peers and enjoy everything that is different from where I was born and raised in Frisco, Texas.”

Kevin Gao ’19, of Boston, said he’s looking forward to his freshman writing seminar, “The Making of Monsters,” and finding opportunities to tutor middle and high school students, which he’s done since 10th grade.

Montana Stone ’19 spent part of the summer working at Yellowstone National Park, explored the Tetons, worked at a law firm, used the money she earned to visit St. Thomas and the Adirondacks, and finally ended the year by working the holiday season at L.L. Bean.

“We worked 60-hour weeks, and on our off day or after work [we saw] the park by hitchhiking, hiking or driving,” Stone said. “Besides falling in love with Yellowstone, I fell in love with our Earth, and consequently its processes like earthquakes and storms. I’m honestly really excited just to be learning in a classroom again.”

The class she’s most excited to begin? Earthquakes.

To make the spring transition an easy one, Lessmeister has been in close communication with the Arts and Sciences students.

“One of the best parts of working with this particular group of students has been getting to know so many of them quite well,” she said. “I’ve … been in touch with them throughout the fall to discuss their dreams and ambitions for Cornell and their academic plans for their spring semester courses.”

For the 31 first-year students entering CALS this spring, more than half are enrolled in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

Other majors that the students will be entering include biological sciences, communication, environmental and sustainability sciences, and information science. Students enrolled throughout the college bring a fresh energy to the spring semester, said Erin Treat, assistant director of CALS admissions.

“Entering Cornell in January has enabled many of our new students to pursue their various interests and passions before arriving on campus,” Treat said. “In addition to earning academic credit at other institutions, CALS students have had enriching experiences such as participating in the Semester at Sea program, traveling abroad to be involved in a filmmaking project, as well as conducting research and completing internships related to their majors. This is an exciting way to bring more students into the Cornell community – and they will have some great insight to share with their classmates.”

The university and the College of Arts and Sciences have also planned an expanded January orientation, including an academic briefing for students, a “what-to-expect” briefing for parents, pre-health and pre-law info sessions, a lunch with first-year and sophomore deans, and sessions with student and faculty advisers.

Student adviser Nicole Biton ’18, an English and psychology major, plans to encourage her advisees to explore their options.

“Coming into Cornell, there can be a lot of pressure to know exactly what you want to study from the first day – which, at 18, is pretty unusual, but in Arts and Sciences, there is a mentality of exploration that contributes to finding a clearer path and earning a more well-rounded education,” Biton said.

T.J. Ball ’19 said he’s ready to jump into his “Religion and Reason” course this semester, and get involved with Cornell’s International Affairs Society and Cornell Model United Nations.

Lessmeister said students who attended college full time this fall could graduate with the Class of 2019 in May or may decide to stay for their eighth semester and graduate in December.

“Overall, I am excited (and a bit anxious) for the journey that lies ahead,” Li said. “I hope to meet new friends that will last a lifetime, join organizations that I am passionate about and make the most out of my education at a renowned university.”

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.