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College of Arts and Sciences

Phoebe Keller: 'Give your time and energy to something bigger than yourself and care about it passionately'

May 2, 2018

Phoebe Keller

Government & History

Rye, NY

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

One of the most significant research projects I undertook at Cornell was a study of professors’ political donations. Working with a friend, I combed through the Federal Election Commission database over a four-year period to track and verify all professors’ donations to political campaigns or causes. In the end, we produced a comprehensive study that said 96 percent of donations had been earmarked for classically liberal causes. We took additional time to gauge student reactions to our numbers, interviewing students in government classes and political clubs on campus. I hope this study was thought-provoking, bolstered by both numerical evidence and student input.

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

Cornell’s diverse academic opportunities ironically enabled me to narrow my focus and find my passions. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time reading philosophy, learning world history and venturing into an English class if it seemed interesting. Ultimately, I come away from Cornell with more breadth and depth to my knowledge than I could have anticipated. I have been able to learn about topics I never encountered before, but also specialize in topics like European fascism and Putin’s Russia that deeply fascinate me.

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

Be deliberate about how you spend your time at Cornell. It’s not just that four years fly by — in fact some days it will feel like they’re endless — it’s because each decision shapes the next. Think carefully about what you want to accomplish in your time here. Try something new but also try diving into something deeply. Give your time and energy to something bigger than yourself and care about it passionately. Cornell is a place full of ambitious students but I’ve found that the most magical times happen here when you give yourself to a project and expect nothing in return.