What “Any Person…Any Study” Really Means

If you’re reading this, you might be a high school senior trying to narrow down your college list–or you’ve recently been through the process. As you look at Cornell admissions propaganda brochures, you’ll notice that the quote by Ezra Cornell, the University’s motto (as follows), is often touted on paper and all over the internet:

“I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

Well okay, you may say, “I’m not even in college yet. I’ll be stressed enough about adjusting to my roommate situation, passing my classes and finding the dining hall–I don’t care about taking some  ambiguous motto to heart. What does this mean to me?”

As I learned in AMST 2001: The First American University, Cornell is unique in higher education as it was founded on the principles of accepting anyone–particularly women and minorities, which was unheard of in the 1800’s– to study anything  (from applied fields to the more theoretical/intellectual). I would argue that this founding ideology is still incredibly prevalent today on campus, moreso than ever before.

To explain, let me give 6 random examples of how I’ve been impacted by the “Any Person…Any Study” motto.

  • I still remember my jaw-dropping shock a couple of weeks into my freshman year, when I was taking intermediate French. I was assigned to work with fellow blogger Keely on an assignment, and she told me she was from Hawaii! Considering most of my high school friends lived within 10 minutes of me in Connecticut, it was pretty cool to meet someone from so far away.
  • Only at a place like Cornell could I listen to Rick Santorum and Sandra Fluke speak–two people with starkly contrasting ideologies–within 3 days of each other, to respectful, inquisitive audiences. Even though I may not personally agree with what either of them had to say 100%, that didn’t stop me from thinking critically about the issues facing our country today. (Yes, I was able to snag a photo with Rick during the College Democrats/Republicans meet and greet after.)
  • In my 5 semesters here, I’ve been in smaller classes with middle-aged students (in their 40’s and 50’s) who have come back to school to get their bachelors degree. Though they may not blend in fully with the rest of the iPod-toting, North Face-wearing 18-21 year old student population, they’re often among the nicest people I’ve met and add a lot of substance to classroom conversations given their experiences.
  • Speaking of the classroom environment, it’s all the richer for this diversity. My economics professor called on a student who worked at an airline for many years when he discussed strategic airline pricing. My marketing plan development class project, on the New York floriculture industry, is all the better because I’m working with students who have run local upstate NY crop-based businesses. Working on a team project in my digital business strategy class, I’m gaining insights from classmates who have worked at top tech companies over their summers.
  • Academically, the options here are incredible. Students studying beverage management and hospitality at a top-ranked Hotel School need walk no farther than 10 feet across the street to find nanotechnology labs and programming facilities. In AEM, the business program, I’ve met students with incredibly diverse interests: from finance to food marketing, and international trade to agribusiness management.
  • I transferred into the business program at the end of last year once I realized a traditional liberal arts education wasn’t for me. If I was at a small liberal arts college and I came to that realization, I’d have had to transfer schools entirely and re-adjust to a new environment. Here, I just needed to follow the internal transfer process for my desired program.

Re-reading this post, I realize it might come off as more of a Cornell advertisement than I intended. But Cornell truly is diverse in every sense of the word…and that’s the point I’m trying to get across.

Happy Saturday!

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