Jose Benjamin Montaño: ‘Caring about my friends only solidified my conviction that I had to stand by their side and engage in solidarity’

Jose Benjamin Montaño

Government & Comparative Literature

Mexico City/Valencia, CA

What was your favorite class and why?

Prisons, Politics and Policy. Professor Jamila Michener’s dedication to teaching, research, and advocacy made it seem like being a scholar and an activist were not necessarily mutually exclusive things. Her class showed me the possibilities of making academic work matter down the hill.

How have you changed since you first arrived at Cornell? What have you discovered about yourself?

College has been humbling. Being at Cornell is a privilege, and trying to grapple with that during my time here influenced the classes I took, the activities I participated in, and my future plans. Quickly finding friends and communities who were politically mobilized because of their own experiences on campus and beyond at minimum made me pay more attention. Caring about my friends only solidified my conviction that I had to stand by their side and engage in solidarity.

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

The most learning came in unexpected places. I probably learned as much as I did about anything while working in the kitchen at the Temple of Zeus, (or during long house-meetings at Watermargin Cooperative), than I did in all my classes. It was in those places where I had the conversations that would re-center my frame of thought, my views on what I should be doing in the classroom. There is no value to theory without a practice. For this somewhat obvious revelation, I have a lot of people to thank—in particular my friends, co-workers, and comrades who have shaped my worldview while at Cornell more than they could ever imagine.

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 Jose Benjamin Montaño