'Identify what truly motivates you'

Natalie Kalitsi

Information Science and French
Washington, D.C.

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

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Definitely intellectual flexibility. Early in my Cornell career, I took classes in psychology and sociology, which were very different from the core computer science courses I was in at the time. I learned how to see problems from multiple angles -- logically from computer science, the importance of social impact from sociology and understanding perception from psychology. Being able to switch between these frames of thinking has made me into a more confident thinker, and generally a more empathetic person as well.

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

Being co-president of Underrepresented Minorities in Computing (URMC) alongside Miah Sanchez ‘22; I led a club of more than 400 members, and we worked hard to expand resources and preparation for underrepresented minorities in the tech field. We spent months working with administration to develop a URMC Summer Experiences Fund during Summer 2021 to support students whose professional or academic summer opportunities had been affected by COVID. Through my work with URMC, I got to have a conversation with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. We raised thousands in corporate sponsorships, we organized events and coordinated with deans and professors to advocate on behalf of students. I even got to lead a coding bootcamp in Eswatini over winter break! But of all of this, I'm most proud of the people I've met during my time as part of the URMC executive board – many of whom I have formed close friendships with.

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

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Easily Edem Dzodzomenyo ‘20 – I met her my sophomore year through a mutual friend, and quickly gained immense respect for her work ethic, creativity and drive. We had a lot of different overlapping intellectual interests, and she engaged me in many meaningful conversations around everything from colonial theory to identity building in college settings. She showed what it meant to be confident in your success in the classroom, and helped me actualize my professional aspirations in tech and fashion. She’s proofread emails for me, helped me talk through complicated essays and supported me at every stage of my Cornell experience. Separately, without the support from Underrepresented Minorites in Computing, I would have switched out of computer science/information science after my first semester – this organization helped me more than I can ever put into words.

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

Spend time exploring your interests, and identify what truly motivates you. I experienced a lot of burnout after high school, and for a period of time I lost motivation in my courses. I realized that wanting to “succeed” wasn’t enough for me anymore, I had to find the reason behind why success was enough to pursue my education further. Through exploring different opportunities (like joining fashion organizations and taking philosophy classes), I discovered that my “why" was  to learn about things that interested me and to use that knowledge to create things.

 

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 2022.

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