'Choose the path that makes you smile when you think about it'

Peter Levine

Performing and Media Arts & Robert S. Harrison College Scholar
Marin County, Calif.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell as a recruited track and field athlete and a high school student excited to pursue environmental sustainability. I had been looking at schools where I could dive into the topics I was intellectually interested in, with similarly eager colleagues, while also participating in competitive collegiate sports. Cornell was the perfect mix. I can't even describe the butterflies in my stomach when I got the call from the track coach saying that he was interested in recruiting me.

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you? 

two people giving a "thumbs up" sign

I am a writer and director for film. I grew up watching movies and television. When I felt lonely I always had characters and worlds that kept me company, so when I decided that I wanted to go in the direction of the arts while studying at Cornell, I set myself on a path to become a filmmaker that can bring that same comfort to viewers. I wrote my first screenplay at Cornell while I was recovering from a spinal injury that took me away from my sport. Writing and editing my screenplay, working with colleagues on small film projects, and talking to professors about my ideas kept me sane during that period of stasis. I have since walked away from athletics due to that injury, but my involvement with film has given me more invigoration and excitement than track ever did.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of?

I recently finished production on my thesis short film, "Remembering Colin Stall." The script had been in the works for two years, so finally realizing my vision has been incredibly fulfilling. I am incredibly proud of the footage we got given that it was captured with sweat and tears. Everyone I worked with was dedicated to the cause of realizing this story, and that level of collaboration brings me so much joy. The film and complimentary analytic component are my capstone project as a College Scholar in A&S.

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? 

a person hang-gliding

I'm leaving Cornell a more sensitive and self-aware person than I was when I came in. College has its ups and downs, but what allowed me to keep on moving forward despite what was put in front of me was an ability to look inward and remind myself what my core beliefs are, where I want to be going and who I really am. Without that stable sense of self, it's all too easy to lose your footing when you find yourself in a storm.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first-year student, what would you say?

Embrace flexibility. So many people are going to tell you what direction you need to go, what you need to do, how much money you need to make. Don't listen. Choose the path that makes you smile when you think about it. Take the class that's out of your discipline. The knowledge that you don't think will do you any good in the future will affect you in the most profound way when you least expect it.

Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2024.

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Peter Levine