'I have a greater sense of urgency about the world'

Ruby French

Government and Anthropology
Oneonta, N.Y.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell because of its excellence in education and the opportunities it provides. Cornell allows students to explore all of their academic interests and to get involved in a myriad of extracurricular activities. Cornell's principle of "any person...any study" inspired me; Cornell truly aspires to this motto of accepting students from all backgrounds and providing a wide breadth of courses and majors. Additionally, I chose Cornell because of its commitment to diversity and sustainability. 

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

My main extracurricular activity is Students for Students (formerly Cornell Mentors for Incarcerated Youth). This is a fantastic organization in which students at Cornell tutor and mentor students at a local juvenile detention center in Ithaca. I joined this group as a sophomore, inspired by my good friend Grace Mehler who was the co-president of SFS at the time, and I am currently the co-president of the group. This organization is extremely important to me because it has taught me how to connect with people who are different from myself and it has given me the opportunity to work with some amazing students. Students for Students provides tutoring in academic courses and college/work preparation, as well as mentorship, but it also does so much more. SFS allows Cornell students to gain a new perspective on our local community and to get involved with the criminal justice system. 

girl on roller skates

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? What have you discovered about yourself?

Although Ithaca feels small to most, to me it is like a big city compared to where I grew up. Being at Cornell has broadened my worldview immensely and introduced me to many new things. I have learned how to communicate with people from different backgrounds from myself and my perspective on the world has become much more globalized. My beliefs on personal responsibility have changed due to my time on campus and my academic career. I have a greater sense of urgency about the world; I strongly believe that everyone is responsible for actively working toward a better society when we live in the midst of institutional injustice. It is my duty as a citizen of the world to stand up to injustice, whether it be racial prejudice or discrimination, climate change or gender/sexual orientation inequality, etc. 

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

Professor Sabrina Karim, my project supervisor for my research team, my thesis advisor, and my mentor, has influenced my Cornell education more than anyone or anything else. She has truly shaped and guided my education and I am extremely grateful to have her as professional, academic and personal mentor. She is an outstanding teacher (I took her course Political Violence) and an amazing research supervisor. When I knocked on her office door as a nervous sophomore interested in her research project, I had no idea she would become one of the most important people that I have had the privilege to meet and work with at Cornell. I have worked as her research assistant for more than two years now and I have learned so much from her about research, data analysis, writing and managing a complex and long-standing research project. When she promoted me to the head research assistant, I was so excited; I had never been in charge of something so important. Additionally, Professor Karim encouraged me to write an honors thesis on U.S. foreign aid and its effects on civil conflict recurrence around the world. Writing a thesis has challenged me in ways I didn't expect and it has taught me about the value of thorough data collection and analysis. 

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

Arts & Sciences at Cornell offers you the ability to thoroughly explore your academic interests. Even if you have already decided on a major, push yourself to try new things and take courses you are interested in, even if they are outside your major or seem very difficult. Challenge yourself and question your own beliefs. Also, learn time management skills quickly! My best tip: treat your semester like a 9-5 job; go to campus (if the pandemic allows you to be in Ithaca) Monday through Friday and stay all day even if you don't have class!  Enjoy Ithaca (if you can)! It is a beautiful place to live and Cornell is a gorgeous campus!

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 2021.

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Ruby French