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College of Arts and Sciences

Video features Milstein students' summer project

By: Catherine Gorey,  A&S Communications
November 14, 2019

Community-engaged learning is a core part of the Milstein Program for Technology & Humanity, where students apply their skills to address specific problems with community partners. A new video highlights one collaboration that’s helping to redistribute furniture to people in need.

In the video, Milstein students Catie Rencricca ’22 and Andrew Gao ’22 and board members from Neighbor to Neighbor talk about their collective effort to create a more efficient website and database for the local nonprofit.

The summer project was an extension of the Milstein “Collab” class, a spring community-engaged learning course that all first-year Milstein students take. The Collab combines academic modules (on journalism, citizen science, data collection, privacy issues and so on) with co-curricular exploration that helps build cohesion among the participants. During the class, students take part in a variety of activities including participating in Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project, a critical reflection workshop and sessions focused on teamwork. They also choose from a number of service projects.

Emme Edmunds, a co-director of Neighbor to Neighbor, and Lisa Borst, redistribution coordinator, worked collaboratively with Rencricca and Gao to define the project needs. The old process was “too clunky; it’s easy to miss things,” Borst said, but the new streamlined system will allow the organization to serve more people.

Recognizing that partner input is a critical component of community-engaged learning, Rencricca noted the value of constant feedback between their development work and the leaders of Neighbor to Neighbor. “To just double check that what we’re doing is helpful is the most important thing,” she said. “Our work is kind of pointless if it’s not actually helping them.”

The Milstein Program is for students who have interests in both technology and the humanities. It combines the benefits of a liberal arts education in the College of Arts & Sciences with two summers spent taking courses and completing projects at Cornell Tech in New York City.

View the short video on the Engaged Cornell YouTube channel.