What is the Cornell Tradition?

Students pose at POST (Pre-orientation Service Trip)

By: Mason Muir ’22

Are you interested in volunteering or performing some form of public service at Cornell University? Then this post is for you! I’m currently a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Computational Biology with a minor in Infectious Disease, and I’m also a Tradition Fellow. This means I belong to a fellowship program under the umbrella of the Cornell Commitment (alongside the Meinig National Scholars and Rawling’s Research Scholars). The Cornell Tradition (CT) selects freshmen for the program during the admissions process based on academics and expressed or demonstrated work and service. This fellowship is unique because of its focus on strong work ethic, academic success, and public service. Tradition seeks to encourage its scholars to continue to make meaningful impacts on campus and among various local communities through volunteering and paid work.

Each year, fellows are required to complete 100 hours of community service/volunteering, 100 hours of paid work, and 50 flex hours of either paid work or volunteering. However, for all first-year students who complete the required Explore CT events, hour requirements are halved to help support students in their college transition. The regular 250-hour requirement may seem daunting, but the requirement is achievable and many students go above and beyond, completing far more than 250 hours each year. Additionally, to ease the burden during the school period, time that you work or volunteer during the breaks (except for the summer) can count towards this yearly goal as well. Personally, I often use my winter breaks to volunteer back home, speaking at local schools and tutoring high school students. The Student Advisory Council (SAC) of Tradition also does a phenomenal job notifying students of volunteer and work opportunities on campus and beyond. I’ve had a blast throughout the academic year meeting other fellows at volunteering events like blood drives and fundraisers.

Students make fleece blankets at the 2016 Cornell Tradition (TRAD) Season of Service Celebration.
Students make fleece blankets at the 2016 Cornell Tradition (TRAD) Season of Service Celebration

Tradition also offers further enrichment opportunities through its service support account. The Tradition program is generously supported by the Frank H. T. Rhodes Tradition Endowment. This money has allowed Tradition fellows to travel around the world and has funded service projects helping international and domestic communities alike.

Another amazing benefit of being a part of Tradition is that it immediately connects you to a vast network of current students and alumni whom you can ask advice from and work alongside. Thanks to this network, an upperclassman helped me find my current volunteering position at the Ithaca Free Clinic. The salary supplementation that Tradition gives to employers for hiring Tradition Fellows has also been extremely important in securing my positions at Cornell. Before beginning my freshman year, I met a Tradition Fellow who recommended the Pre-Orientation Service Trip (POST). That experience fundamentally shaped my friendships at Cornell and helped me transition to college. The countless opportunities, big and small, that Tradition provides have enhanced my time at Cornell and given me work experience and fun volunteering outlets.

A candid shot of intern Mason Muir at POST (Pre-orientation Service Trip)
Mason Muir ’22 at POST (Pre-orientation Service Trip)

If Tradition sounds like something you would like to be a part of, but you aren’t selected for it your freshman year, don’t fret! While freshman applicants are selected for Tradition, current students can apply to the program during the spring of their Freshman or Sophomore year. For those accepted to Cornell as a Tradition Fellow, and those who may join later on in college, I am excited to meet you!