'I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how technology can be leveraged for social good'

Ishika Agrawal

Information Science
Warren, N.J.

Why did you choose Cornell?

Logical and creative. Technology and social impact. I’ve always been drawn to the “ands” — my passions spanning the arts and sciences from data science to social justice, design, writing and

woman at top of building

law. I chose to come to Cornell because of its emphasis on interdisciplinary thinking, allowing me to not just explore these fields individually but actually dive deeper into their unique intersections. During my time at Cornell, I’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of how technology can be leveraged for social good and think critically about the ethics of it to address pressing social issues.

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

My main extracurricular has been Hack4Impact, a project team where I worked on developing technology for social impact. Over the last couple yof ears, I’ve worked on various projects from developing a data visualization dashboard for the Correctional Association of New York (that helps bring awareness to the public about issues within prisons) to designing a volunteer management platform for a local Ithaca non-profit, Love Living at Home, that supports the elderly. My favorite project was working with Techfugees, a non profit in the humanitarian space, to help volunteers who support refugees in recommending resources based on their needs. I conducted more than 20 interviews with refugees across North America, Europe and Africa and pivoted the idea multiple times. Through Hack4Impact, I’ve also met with so many other passionate and dedicated designers and developers who have challenged me to consider new ideas and perspectives, mentored me in my career and helped me grow in my own abilities as a technologist.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

Some of my best memories have come from connecting with other Cornellians. During my sophomore year, I started getting interested in UX design and reached out to an alum to schedule my first informational interview. I was nervous because I’d never done any sort of professional networking before. Our half hour conversation turned into hours. Similarly, as part of the Teszia Belly Dance Troupe, I got invited to participate by an alum at Liquid State in Downtown Ithaca. It was such a fun experience rehearsing last-minute backstage with my teammates, getting to know alums from our club and how Teszia shaped their journey, connecting with the local community, and immersing myself within Middle Eastern culture (I even got to try the Dabke!).

woman in fancy dance costumes

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

The power of storytelling. From machine learning models to poetry, I’ve learned the ways in which the stories we tell about the work we do, society and ourselves shape the way we view the world. I’ve learned to both tell stories and question them by taking a multi-dimensional lens and considering new perspectives.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

I’m most proud of Pavvilion, a startup I launched with my peers, Nina, Max, Lizzie, Meredith and Noah. Starting within the Cornell Tech Policy Lab, it's been an incredible journey from the initial sketches to figuring out what it takes to build an app to conducting user interviews and testing to finally launching this past semester and getting 300 users. Taking this leap into the world of entrepreneurship has taught me so many valuable lessons about balancing user and business goals, legal questions about privacy and security, selling our idea to users and investors and putting myself out there to start something completely from scratch.

What are your plans for next year? 

After graduation, I'll be moving to Washington D.C. to work at Amazon as a UX Designer.


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 2023.

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Ishika Agrawal