Marta Faulkner: 'College is a time for exploring what inspires you most'

Marta Faulkner
Mathematics & Music
Canyon City, OR

Why did you choose Cornell?

In high school, music was really important to me, but I saw myself pursuing a career in math. I wanted to find a place where I could do both—study math while also being seriously involved in music ensembles and music classes. Cornell's music department is very open to the whole Cornell community; the people in my music classes were music majors, math majors, biology majors, engineers, philosophers...which made for a stimulating intellectual environment. Plus, I took lessons from phenomenal instrumental and voice instructors and sang and played in really talented ensembles, all while working on a math degree. "Any person, any study" and all that jazz certainly paid off in my case.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

That is a very difficult question. When I look back on my four years at Cornell, I'm in awe of all the people I met and experiences I had that were truly meaningful, even life-changing, and which I am incredibly lucky to have had. One treasured memory among many is creating a time capsule with a few of my best friends just after classes were suspended due to the coronavirus threat. These people were my friends from my very first week of college onward, and we were all devastated that our senior year had ended prematurely. We wrote letters to our future selves, each other, and other friends, and put them in our time capsule before burying it with a silly ceremony that left each of us laughing hysterically. I am still sad that I had to say goodbye (temporarily) to my friends earlier than I thought I would, but ending my Cornell experience as I had begun it, with those who had supported me the whole way through, reminded me that the four years I had at Cornell, with all the wonderful memories they contained, were so much bigger than the loss I was experiencing in that moment.

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

I am proud to be a founding member of the student-led climate and environment podcast "Down to Earth: Cornell Climate Conversations," which I began to work with at the beginning of my junior year. As a member of the podcast, I've interviewed everyone from student activists to a former first lady of Haiti to climate scientists and more. My eventual goal is to become a climate scientist or oceanographer, and communication between science and the public is very important to me. I believe that for climate science to "matter" in the sense of the general public taking it seriously—a critical step when it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change—there needs to be accurate, compelling, and compassionate communication of the story of science and why it is relevant to all of our lives. I especially enjoyed showcasing the motivations of scientists: scientists care so deeply about their research, and I wanted listeners to connect to the dedication and personality of each individual scientist as they strive to bring us the most accurate information about climate change.

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

Choose your classes based on the professor, not the topic! Aside from completing the requirements for your major, spend time finding the people that really inspire you, through mentorship or great teaching style or enthusiasm for their research. There's plenty of time on the job or in graduate school to fill in specific skills you may have missed in college, so don't feel like you have to pass up a chance to take a class with a professor you really admire just because the course material doesn't seem "as relevant" to what you think you want to do after college. More than ticking off some checkbox on a list of classes you think sound best on your transcript, college is a time for exploring what inspires you most. And you might not know what that is until a good teacher transforms something you never knew you cared about into the most interesting thing you've ever encountered!

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 Marta Faulkner