Delphi Cleaveland: 'Ask 'why' and always question that which seems ordinary.'

April 12, 2017

Delphi Cleaveland

German Studies & Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Poughkeepsie, NY

What is your main extracurricular activity? Why is it important to you?

Being a member of the Cornell women's cross country and track & field teams has been the most valuable experience of my Cornell career. Constantly being surrounded by intense, hard-working, fun-loving and resilient women who dedicate literally every second of their day to the things they value most, is the most empowering experience I have ever been a part of. The culture of our team, which I think hinges largely on the idea of always coaxing out the best in each other, is a philosophy I know I will be carrying with me for the rest of my life.

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

Under the auspices of the Fredric Conger Wood Fellowship from the Einaudi Center for International Studies, I traveled to Berlin during the Summer of 2016 to perform ethnographic research on Germany’s response to the mounting Syrian refugee crisis. While in Berlin, I interviewed recently emigrated forced migrants from Syria, translated at the local government subsidiary, took a class at Humbolt University, volunteered at an emergency housing shelter and tutored recent refugees in both German and English. The experience of being dualistically exposed to Germany’s complex and historically-charged psyche, while interacting with individuals who had so recently fled war-striken homelands, is an experience that has impacted the entire trajectory of my life for the better.

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

By delving fearlessly into the realm of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, I have been exposed to a world of revolutionary frameworks, contradictions, movements and obstacles. Thinking naively upon entering Cornell that feminism was simply "the empowerment of women," my perception of the subject was flipped upside-down. Theories of intersexuality, of performativity, of humanitarian mechanisms of compassion and suffering etc. etc. etc. (the list is endless); these ideas have revolutionized the way I see and interact with the world around me. The experience has taught and inspired me to forever ask “why” and always question that which seems ordinary.


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