Community engagement, scholarship and leadership take Cornell students beyond campus
These six students, with their participation in programs through Global Cornell, the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement and their colleges, demonstrate Cornell’s commitments to purposeful discovery and changing lives through public engagement.
Priya Pradhan ’22: Abroad in Denmark
Last fall as her senior year began, Priya Pradhan ’22 studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. While working toward degrees in sociology and information science from the College of Arts and Sciences, Pradhan, an international student from Nepal, immersed herself in Danish culture, expanded her networks and extended her experience with travel throughout Europe.
“I always knew that I wanted study abroad to be a part of my college experience. Going abroad showed me that there are so many exciting places to live and thrive across the world. I got to use my broken Spanish to reserve seats to a jazz show in Barcelona. I made Nepali chiya (milk tea) with family friends in Oslo. I reconnected with my high school best friend in Ireland after three years apart, and listened to Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl during a night out in Galway.
“As a graduating senior, it was valuable to see that there may be a place for me in countries that I had never envisioned myself in. My time abroad has led to more questions and curiosities than answers; now there are so many more cities I want to visit, foods I want to try and people I hope to meet!”
Pradhan is a member of the International Students Union and is a student employee with Global Cornell.
Olivia Pietz ’22: Studying Water Quality in Ithaca
Olivia Pietz ’22 is part of a team keeping Ithaca water safe to drink by developing a tool to predict concentrations of manganese – released from minerals in the glacial Finger Lakes landscape – in the city’s reservoir. Pietz spent last summer paddling onto the reservoir to extract sediment samples from various depths and locations and testing them for manganese, a potential public health hazard that creates significant challenges for water treatment plants and which is exacerbated by climate change.
The project, which was supported by the Einhorn Center, is a collaboration among researchers from Cornell and Ithaca College and staff from the Ithaca Water Treatment Plant.
“This project allowed me to participate in fun and engaging research beyond the classroom to directly benefit the Ithaca community. The opportunity to work collaboratively with faculty, students and Ithaca Water Treatment Plant staff inspired me to pursue environmental engineering in the future.”
Pietz’s work with the samples isn’t done yet: she is currently analyzing the remaining sediment as part of her senior thesis project. Her results will help further show how manganese is released into the reservoir water column.
Sherell Farmer ’22: Pursuing Economic Justice in New York
Through Cornell’s High Road Fellowship, Sherell Farmer ’22 spent the summer before her sophomore year working in collaboration with the Center for Employment Opportunities in Buffalo, New York.
She analyzed barriers that keep formerly incarcerated individuals from completing job readiness programs; developed resources on employment rights; created and led mental health workshops; spent time job coaching, including helping program participants write and edit resumes and conducting mock interviews; and represented the center at coalition and public meetings.
“Growing up in Brooklyn, inequity is everywhere. I have long sought ways to end this divide and have learned a lot about economic justice through my education here at Cornell. My participation in the High Road has provided me a new, more sustainable method to work toward economic justice and hopefully given me the tools to apply those principles to my own neighborhood.”
Farmer is the co-founder of Cornell Students 4 Black Lives and is representing Cornell in the 2021–22 Newman Civic Fellowship, a national program recognizing and supporting community-committed students who are changemakers and public problem-solvers.
Karl Lam ’24: Studying Child Welfare in Vietnam, from Ithaca
This winter, Karl Lam ’24 was on a cross-cultural team that researched child wellbeing in Vietnam and presented findings to Vietnam’s National Assembly, policymakers and nonprofit groups. With fellow Cornell students, students from VinUniversity in Hanoi, Vietnam and a Vietnam-based nonprofit, Lam analyzed effective strategies for preventing abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences.
“In the Dong Nai province of southern Vietnam, we saw that companies were building on-site kindergartens and schools near their factories in order to provide employees’ children with adequate daycare and a safe place to learn. Ultimately, it provided economic benefits to the company as well, decreasing turnover rate, increasing productivity and supporting early childhood education among the children of factory workers.”
“As an under-researched and stigmatized issue in this part of the world, it was eye-opening to apply research skills and problem-solving techniques to advocate for real-world change.”
“At Cornell, my mission is to work with fellow students and staff to learn about injustices and serve, on a global or local scale.”
An Engaged Ambassador with the Einhorn Center, Lam also works with Global Empowerment Mission, a non-profit organization specializing in disaster and conflict relief, to collect supplies for people fleeing Ukraine, and has interned with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tompkins County on their food equity team.
Melanie Marshall ’24: Studying Pollinators from Ithaca to Oslo
Melanie Marshall ’24 is a Laidlaw scholar with the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. Her work as a scholar incorporates research, leadership training with the Einhorn Center and an upcoming summer leadership-in-action experience in Norway.
In her first summer as a Laidlaw scholar, Marshall stayed at the Fallen Tree Center for a Resilient Future in Ithaca under the mentorship of Jane Marie Law, professor of Asian studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focus was insect pollinators: their importance to food production, their relationship with humans and how their populations are declining. Over six weeks, Marshall identified and photographed insects in the area to create a pollinator guide, allowing visitors at Fallen Tree to learn about these important bugs and how to support their populations.
“The Laidlaw Scholars Program has encouraged me to follow my passions of sustainable eating and insect health and has fueled my curiosity about the world. The program has helped me realize the necessary and sometimes overlooked aspects of leadership that create an effective and happy team: encouragement, recognition and partitioned responsibility.”
In Norway this summer, Marshall will continue this work to fight against insect mass extinction in partnership with an Oslo-based environmental organization focused on urban pollinator pathways.
Joe McGranahan ’22: Working for a More Sustainable Ithaca
As part of the Circular Construction Lab in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Joe McGranahan ’22 is finding innovative ways to recycle and reuse building materials, rather than tossing them in the landfill.
McGranahan was part of Assistant Professor Felix Heisel’s research team that developed a 3-D scanning tool to identify reusable materials in buildings slated for demolition and put that tool to use in Ithaca’s Collegetown. After estimating how much reusable material was in each building, the team shared findings with Finger Lakes Reuse, who used the data to determine what they could salvage from the site.
“The opportunity to do sustainability research so closely engaged with local businesses and policy stakeholders has been a highlight of my time at Cornell. Seeing, from within the lab and out in the field, how methodologies and data I helped produce aide and inform businesses’ and government’s action in the push for a more sustainable future has inspired me to think bigger about the role of architecture and the architect in making meaningful change at local and global levels.”
McGranahan is also a member of the Sustainable Ithaca Team, a collaboration between the Circular Construction Lab and Environmental Systems Lab that aligns with the City of Ithaca’s 2030 carbon neutrality goals.
Incoming Cornell students can get started in community engagement before the fall semester begins. Apply to Pre-Orientation Service Trips (POST), where you will meet other new students, connect with POST student leaders and learn about the local community through daily service projects.