'I have felt a sense of belonging'

Axaraly Ortiz

Fort Wayne, Ind.

Why did you choose Cornell?

From the moment I set foot on Cornell's campus, I have felt a sense of belonging that has stayed with me. This welcoming environment, along with Cornell's reputation for academic excellence, led me to choose this university for my undergraduate studies. My decision was solidified during my first course, HIST 1802: Introduction to U.S. Latino History, taught by Professor Maria Cristina Garcia. Studying the diverse narratives and perspectives of Latino history in the U.S., I was deeply impacted by the exploration of social issues that continue to shape our society. This reinforced my commitment to Cornell, as it aligns with my values of community engagement, unity and solidarity.

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

My primary extracurricular activity is serving as the co-chair for MEChA, a political student organization committed to promoting education and student activism while fostering solidarity and unity within the Latine community. MEChA's mission is to create a supportive and inclusive environment for all students, beyond cultural celebrations, by cultivating a sense of belonging and empowerment while actively working towards decolonization. Being a part of MEChA has been a transformative experience for me, allowing me to contribute to building a more equitable and inclusive campus community while forging lifelong connections with fellow students who share a vision of a decolonized world.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?         

One of my most treasured memories at Cornell was spending a peaceful afternoon with a friend at the arboretum. After a particularly challenging day of exams, we sought solace in nature. As we wandered through the calm paths of the arboretum, we indulged in birdwatching and marveled at the diverse array of eco-life around us. However, the most enchanting moment came when we spotted a rainbow stretching across the horizon, casting its vibrant hues over the rolling farmlands of Tompkins County. Driven by an impulsive sense of wonder and spontaneity, we embarked on a quest to chase the rainbow's elusive end, a whimsical pursuit that filled our hearts with joy and laughter. In that fleeting moment, surrounded by the beauty of nature and the warmth of friendship, I found a sense of peace that I will cherish as one of my fondest memories at Cornell. 

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

During my time as a student at Cornell University, I have been fortunate enough to participate in a range of research projects and fellowship programs that focus on decolonization and social justice. As a fellow researcher in the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, I explored the ways in which contemporary neoliberal policies and touristic development contribute to neocolonialism in Mexico. In addition to this, I also investigated indigenous midwifery practices in Cotacacchi, Ecuador, as a form of political resistance while serving as a student intern at the K’allam’p Organization. These experiences have helped me to gain a broader understanding of social issues and have reinforced the importance of activism and advocacy for creating positive change. 

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?     

The most influential figures in my Cornell education have been my mentors, Professor Maria Cristina Garcia and graduate student Lyrianne Gonzalez, both powerful and inspirational Latina women in the history department. Their guidance and support have been invaluable, shaping my academic journey and my personal growth. They exemplify dedication and passion in their mentorship roles. They go above and beyond to check in on their mentees and provide guidance through the challenges of academia. Their mentorship has fostered a sense of community and belonging, empowering me to advocate for myself and others while standing up for the collective good. Their mentorship has enriched my academic experience and instilled in me a strong sense of self-confidence and resilience. I am deeply grateful for their mentorship and their profound impact on my journey at Cornell.

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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Axaraly Ortiz