Leighton Fernando Cook
South Lake Tahoe, CA
What is your main extracurricular activity--why is it important to you?
I volunteered at Auburn Correction Facility as a teaching assistant for three semesters. Every week, it was a nice break to leave the Cornell bubble for a few hours. More importantly, interacting with the inmates, helping them with their homework and teaching them math and English was an extremely rewarding and refreshing experience.
What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?
This year I helped plan the Latinx Ivy League Conference, which took place at Cornell in March. Planning this three-day event on the theme of "Nepantla: Navigating Ambiguity" required months of preparation. While I was extremely stressed during the conference, ensuring that everything ran smoothly, it is gratifying to reflect on the work that I, in conjunction with many others, brought to fruition. This conference helped delegates learn new skills, listen to amazing speakers and collaborate with one another.
Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?
My honors thesis and Mellon Mays advisor, Leslie Adelson, has profoundly affected my Cornell education. I first met her when I took a class with her the spring semester of my sophomore year. The previous semester I had expressed dissatisfaction with studying predominantly the literature of old, White men that forms the German canon and had even considered changing majors. Since that course, I have completed an independent study on Turkish-German literature with Professor Adelson, taken her course, Imagining Migration in Film and Literature, and I am now working with her on my honors thesis looking at multilingualism in the Borderlands. Throughout the five semesters that I have known her, she has patiently helped me navigate my academic and professional interests at Cornell, has been an invaluabe source of advice and has always helped to push me in the right direction to challenge and grow my preconceptions and ideas. Without a doubt, my Cornell experience would have been less fulfilling, challenging and rewarding without her.
If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?
I would advise first year students to attend office hours with faculty, particularly faculty in areas you are interested in. This is a good way to get to know your professors and to begin building relationships with them. As well, it makes classes feel more personal and rewarding. I would also recommend that first years try and take independent studies courses as a way to pursue their own interests in a concentrated manner with a faculty member who is invested in them. Finally, all students should definitely study abroad! Study abroad goes beyond the tourist experience by helping students immerse themselves in the "foreign."