'I've formed a multifaceted view that I will take with me out into the world'

Precious Oyewole

Biological Sciences
Sugar Land, Texas

Why did you choose Cornell?

The summer after my junior year of high school, my family and I embarked on a series of college tours. Cornell University was our first stop along the East Coast. That day, we went to an information session for the College of Arts & Sciences. It was in a big building with large glass windows that I now know as Klarman Hall. This is where I learned about all that Arts & Sciences has to offer: the well-rounded curriculum, the variety of majors and minors, the different events that are hosted and the amazing faculty, advisors and support that the college offers. Once we were done with the information session, we went on a tour of the campus. Our tour guide, a passionate human development major with a minor in dance and aspirations for medical school, left a lasting impression. Her infectious enthusiasm for the campus ignited a similar excitement within me. As she led us through Cornell's grounds, on what I now know as one of the few hotter days in Ithaca, I found myself captivated by the gorges intertwined into our campus, the harmonious blend of historic and contemporary architecture, the descriptions of the world-renowned professors that we would be learning from, and the abundance of outdoor activities offered. After the tour, my family and I had dinner at the Boatyard Grill and I remember my dad saying that we didn’t need to look at any other schools: Cornell was the perfect school for me and that was a sentiment that I shared. 

people around a table eating ice cream

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

My main extracurricular activity was being a teaching assistant, specifically for general chemistry and adjacent classes. Reflecting on my academic journey from K-12, I've been exceedingly fortunate to have had teachers who not only provided me with an amazing education but inspired and encouraged me daily. This trend continued at Cornell, with the amazing professors and advisors that I got to interact with here. But this is also where I discovered that the impact of a good TA can be monumental. A good TA can significantly influence students' perceptions of a course, their understanding of the material, their attendance and ultimately their success. With all of the great experiences that I had with teaching professionals, I wanted to be that person for younger students, to not only be a teacher but also an advisor and a mentor.

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

The most valuable skills that I have gained from my Arts & Sciences education have been adaptability and open-mindedness. As a biology major on the pre-med track, most of the courses that satisfied my major and career track were very STEM-focused. However, the requirements of the Arts & Sciences curriculum allowed me to explore beyond what was required of my major, fostering a multitude of valuable experiences that made me feel like I got everything I wanted out of my college career. Fulfilling my language requirement exposed me to both Spanish and my native language, Yoruba. Although I had taken Spanish previously, it was at Cornell where my fluency improved exponentially. Taking Yoruba not only deepened my cultural connection but also offered me profound insights into my heritage. Understanding Global Capitalism through Service Learning allowed us to learn about the effects of colonialism on modern-day Jamaica through readings and by actually visiting the country itself. I also had the opportunity to take classes on foraging mushrooms and making ice cream, which taught me fun new skills. I was able to have time to explore other interests outside of A&S because I was able to finish my requirements on time. A&S’s emphasis on diverse experiences not only enhanced my academic journey but also helped me to form a multifaceted view that I will take with me out into the world.      

a group of people

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

I am most proud of the BIRDSONG Program, an outreach program that I’ve created with my research professor, Dr. Nora Prior, in collaboration with Cornell, BOCES and the Lab of Ornithology. This initiative aims to enhance the accessibility of Cornell's outreach efforts, foster sustainable cross-cultural communication training for undergraduates and provide inclusive STEM resources to children and young adults with disabilities in Tompkins County. This semester marked our first implementation of the program and not only have we been successful in achieving our goals, but we have also laid the groundwork for future iterations catering to diverse populations, including retirement homes. We're already strategizing for upcoming semesters. We plan to share our insights and experiences at an American Speech–Language–Hearing Association Conference and possibly other conferences with a focus on inclusive STEM education. Participating in the BIRDSONG Program has been a transformative experience, allowing me to strengthen my ability to communicate scientific concepts effectively to individuals with differing abilities. It has also allowed me to forge meaningful connections with members of the Ithaca community, forming lasting, impactful relationships.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?     

Without a doubt, I would say that my parents have been the most significant influence on my Cornell education. Their unwavering belief in the power of education has shaped my academic journey from my first day of kindergarten. Without their support and encouragement, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to pursue my dreams at Cornell. Their tireless dedication and relentless work ethic serve as sources of inspiration for me, motivating me to try and do the same in my own educational journey. To my incredible parents: your love, guidance, and sacrifices have paved the way for my success. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for everything!

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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Precious Oyewole