“1,460 days. Or should I say 1,461 days to include that extra day afforded by the leap year? That is all the time the average undergraduate student will be enrolled in their university. Factor in breaks, summer jobs, study abroad experiences, and the possibility of transferring and the days speed by like water down a drain. The worst part comes when you meet people you love but are a year older and no matter how much you want them to stay, they have to go on to the bigger and better opportunities that come after graduation. That’s the worst part about Cornell; not the grueling 20 minute walk up hill to classes, not pre-lims with a mean score of 52—the worst part is that the people you come to care for will leave before you are ready to say good-bye.
Maybe my situation was avoidable. Maybe, if I had chosen to live with girls that were sophomores like me or maybe if I had experienced the “normal” housing situation where you hate your roommates I could have avoided the tearful heart-wrenching good-bye to girls who have changed my life. Most people would just call me a softie and think I was exaggerating so before I begin, let me explain a few things. I would like to introduce you to the reasons why I love these girls. First, there is AJB my actual roommate. AJB is the ying to my yang; my side of the room consists of rigid order—her side is best described as “organized chaos.” AJB has taught me the value of accepting others as they are; I accept her chaos and she has accepted my OCD tendencies. Then there is Lawton-the athletic one who enjoys being loud. Lawton has shown me that a good time can always be found even in the simplest things; like putting on boots! Jacqueline, the tallest and I guess you could say quietest person has shown me the value of taking risks; whether it’s taking up windsurfing or venturing out onto Cayuga Lake in kayaks, Jac lives for adventure. Finally there is Chelsea, the only Brunette among us and the main reason I hate good-byes. Chelsea is leaving us after a year full of voicing her opinion, trying to corrupt me, and giving us the most laughs. Chelsea has taught me the value of being yourself because if others love you, they will accept you just the way you are. 
All five of us make 113 Heights Court the place I want to go home to. We have family dinners at least twice a week and laughing fits where we all end up in one bed, even more frequently. In 24 hours we will all go our separate ways and all I will have left of this year is memories I will cherish—and while I am blessed to have those, I still believe the worst thing about Cornell is learning to say good-bye. I love you girls!!”

As the woman in Freedom Writers says, "Your faces are ingrained in my memory and upon my heart." Thank you for an amazing year-words cannot express what it's meant to me! I love you all!!

This is the blog that started it all! Two year and two weeks ago, I wrote this blog to apply to be a Life on the Hill student blogger.  But today it was my turn.  I stood up with the class of 2012 graduates had my diploma conferred upon me! While it was a wonderful ceremony, the things I will remember most include: the sunburn my family members proudly bear so they could be there to support me;  my boyfriend Russ traveling on his crutches all across campus to ensure he didn’t miss a second of the recognition; my father yelling so loud that I found all of my friends and family in a stadium full of 40, 000 people; my mom coordinating her dress to show Big Red pride (which happened to compliment my outfit too); a family wine tour along the west side of Cayuga Lake; and a BBQ at my advisor’s house with the rest of the Agricultural Science Education graduates.

While I have many wonderful memories from my time at Cornell, commencement is an extremely fitting way to end my stories and tales about this experience.  It would be really easy to focus on that slight sense of panic that overcomes you when faced with the unnerving question, “What next?” however I’d like to share a theory I have with you.  The reason Cornell calls it “Commencement” is to ease that reaction.  When a degree candidate or recent graduate thinks of commencement, it means to begin something.  And that is what we are embarking on: the beginning of the next chapter of our lives.  For some of us, that means we’ll be entering the workforce; for others, we will be continuing our education with graduate coursework; and still others are going to take a break from academia for a while and join Americorp or plan their own adventures to hike the Appalachian Trail.  So, as I close this chapter of my life, I’m going to end my final blog just like I started it: by thanking the people I love the most.

Class of 2012 Agricultural Science Education Graduates: We did it! With just eight of us rounding out the major, I feel like we’ve become a pretty tight knit group (a point that was proven by the level of cheers at the diploma ceremony).  Thank you for the wonderful education discussions, the car pools to events, and for being so willing to serve and give back to the people who have gotten us this far! I know you’ll all do amazing things!

Class of 2012 Agricultural Science Education Graduates


Dr. Travis Park and Mr. Jeff Perry: These two education professors have continuously challenged me to do more and be more than I ever expected to be.  Just when I think I have this teaching business figured out, they have pushed me to accept a new challenge or asked for my honest feedback.  Dr. Park is the reason I made it to this day and I’m pretty sure four years ago when I walked into his office crying over the lowest grade I had ever received, neither of us thought we’d see this day.  His constant support and guidance was invaluable in navigating my time at Cornell. Mr. Perry is relatively new to the program however his words of wisdom from his years in the high school classroom have not fallen on deaf ears and make me excited to student teach this fall.

Mr. Jeff Perry (left) and Dr. Travis Park (right) handing us our diplomas!

My fellow hometown girls and FFA friend: While my high school only has 400 students total, we have a pretty good track record of sending our graduates to Cornell.  From car pooling to get home for breaks to talking about our shared experiences from home these girls have been a blessing.  Danielle and Catie will graduate next year and I’m so excited for them to feel the same excitement I felt today.  Right in the middle is Juleah, or “Miss T” as I was introduced to her four years ago.  She served as a mentor when I was an FFA state officer.  From teaching me to advocate for agriculture to advocating for me to ensure my whole family saw me receive my degree, her passion and conviction continues to ground me. While we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as you would expect going to the same university, they always remind me to never forget where we came from and how our town (and the friendships formed there) shaped the people we are today.

Catie, Me, Juleah, Amber, and Danielle

My family: From playing “Male cat and dog” to coaching every team I was ever on, I would not be here without my family.  They’ve been by my side for nearly twenty-two years and no matter near or far, I know they are only a phone call away (even if it was a 3 hour conversation Mom)! I could not ask for a more loving family and know that none of this would have been possible had they not instilled within me a belief that no dream was too big.  They never once mocked me as I sat on our living room floor as an 8 year-old telling our puppy that “Listen Nova (the puppy), I’m going to Cornell and gonna be a Vet someday!” nor did they pass judgement when I realized becoming a Vet was no longer the path I wanted. I love you guys (even you Logan)!

The Ackerley clan: Mom, me, Dad, and Logan

My 2nd mom and my sister: The titles of ‘mom’ and ‘sister’ could not be more true despite the fact that these next two women are not related by blood.  They have both been my confidants, supporters, cheerleaders (literally for Amber), and the shoulder to cry on when things just weren’t going right.  I’m pretty sure we’ve shed more tears, shared more laughs, and admitted more fears to each other than is healthy for any relationship, yet that’s why I value their friendship so much.  ‘Miss B’ as I still often call her has served as my role model and mentor for nearly ten years now.  Without her my life would have been very different.  As for Amber, she’s the first friend I can ever remember.  We met as Kindergartners in the town T-ball league and have been inseparable ever since.  We have pushed each other, lived together, worked together, and continue to pursue our futures together.  She is my better half in so many ways and each day I am awed by her strength and determination to make her dreams a reality–her ability to let nothing hold her back.

Me, Mama B, and Amber

Russ: He has been one of my biggest supporters for the past two years and each day I thank God that he is in my life.  From the encouraging notes left throughout the apartment to taking the time to value my achievements even when I don’t see them, to knowing when a hug would fix everything, or reminding me that I needed to buckle down on school work, I am continually amazed by his kindness and attentiveness.  So many times he knows me better than I know myself.  And today, he crutched up every hill I asked him to in order to make sure he could be there to cheer for me when I received my diploma. I’m not nearly as good as he is about voicing my feelings but I love him and wouldn’t want to celebrate this day without him.

Me and Russ

My Dad: Growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be a tomboy; yet I’ve always truly been a daddy’s girl at heart.  While I may have preferred softball pants to dress and cleats to heels, I have always been “Daddy’s little princess”.  When other kids were upset to learn that there really wasn’t a Superman or Spiderman to ensure their safety, I never once was worried because my father has always been my hero.  He has guided, challenged, supported, and cheered me through all of my failures and accomplishments.  He always knew exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.  Throughout high school, he set a high expectation for success and when I fell short, he made me reflect on whether I could do better.  Yet in college, when his lessons of hard work and perseverance had ingrained themselves in my character, he gave me the constant reminder to relax and enjoy the life I’d worked so hard to build.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about him and would be remiss if I didn’t say: Thank you dad, I love you…and WE DID IT!!!

I Love you Dad!

Although today was technically “my day” to celebrate, today belongs to everyone mentioned here and even those who I have unfortunately left out.  As Dr. Park reminded the Ag Ed graduates, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  I am so thankful that my village has overflowed with such wonderful, charismatic, and character-filled people as those mentioned here and cannot wait to see where our next adventures take us!

Finally! Thank you to all of you who stuck with me through my scattered posts and hair-brained adventures.  I hope I’ve offered some profound thoughts and some insights into what my life at Cornell has been.  While I can’t say I always loved it, I wouldn’t change a second for the world! Here’s to embarking on a new adventure and seeing what the world has in store for me!

Just because…

After a grueling week of long days, longer nights, and caffeine overload, I walk in the door from my 10 hour workday and am greeted by this site:

My "just because" flowers.

While some may question his color choice, my boyfriend knows me far too well. When I questioned him as to why there were flowers with my name on it, he replied, “I wanted to get you something nice just because I could!” Every girl should have it this good…especially when the girl is in the middle of her last finals week!

Study hard. 🙂

Hope is Not a Strategy

Sometimes in life, you just can’t find the right words.  Other times, someone else just does a better job of voicing the concerns of an entire group.  As someone with a vested interest in agriculture, I’m borrowing the words of a dear friend’s father.  He’s a successful dairy farmer out in Utah and raised a phenomenal daughter who continues to challenge and inspire me with her optimism and heart for service.  Here is what he has to say:

Hope Is Not A Strategy

We have been in the dairy business for more than thirty years . Half of that time was spent on a typical New England freestall operation, the remaining time on a large western purchased feed, dry lot type of dairy. Financially, 2009 was the worst year ever, in the dairy business. The pundits all spouted that it could never happen again, that it was a once in a lifetime occurrence. Well, here we are three years later, zero change in dairy policy or production management and history is repeating itself quite quickly.
Where is the dairymen’s outrage? 2012 was supposed to be $18 milk. Now it is $14, except in Utah where it is $1-1.50 less because of inter-market haul and balancing plant costs due to an exceptionally mild winter and buyers not taking all the milk they had committed to. Take out the $1.30 for normal co-op costs and suddenly you have $12 milk to pay for $18 production costs.
The current milk-price feed ratio is 1:45. That is worse than any month in 2009 and worse than any month we could find all the way back to 1985.
The only ones being hurt by this scenario are dairymen. Cooperatives pay all of their expenses and give us some of what’s left over whether it’s profitable for us or not. They cannot lose with this arrangement. Milk haulers are very happy as they are hauling more milk, farther than ever, getting paid for every hour and mile they go. Proprietary plants and co-op customers are ecstatic, buying all the cheap milk they want at a discount for the foreseeable future. We as dairymen don’t seem to be cohesive enough to do anything about it.
There is no incentive for our milk buyers to control supply- in fact they appear to be more afraid of a shortage rather than being long. They sit back and watch us burn up our equity and we are proving time and time again that we are willing and able to continuously produce milk way below cost. It is a given that when one of us goes broke, somebody will put cows on our dairy and keep on producing cheap milk. We as dairymen need to control supply to become and stay profitable. Our boards of directors seem to be unwilling to step on management’s toes and turn this overproduction around. In the case of DFA’s Mountain Area Council, we have seen this price decline coming since January. Why did it take until May to do anything at all about it? On a side note, they have instituted a growth management plan which may not be perfect, but it is a good start. My opinion is they need to do more cutting, at least on a temporary basis, immediately.
Dairymen need to hold their co-op boards of directors’ feet to the fire and insist that we cut and keep production in line with demand. A two or three percent oversupply of milk slashes our price by 30% or more.
Until recently, the west has had cheap feed. Our production costs were less and we got paid about a dollar less per hundred- weight than the east. Through participation in the Cornell Dairy Profit Monitor, we generated a comparison report of 30 farms over 700 cows generally located in the east for the 12 months of 2011. This showed an average price of $3.38 higher than our dairies’ average net milk price over the same time period. As China & other countries have moved in to compete with us for forages, our cost of production has risen to be comparable to the east. We have not had a corresponding price increase to remain competitive. Processors continue to view the west as a source for cheap ample milk supply. Farmers, grain mills & other suppliers are tiring of dairymen not being able to pay their bills. They are more than happy to have other outlets for feed that can pay them a high price in a timely fashion. Our price must come up to be competitive with the rest of the country or we must go out of business. But with this necessary price increase we must have a growth management in place or the race to the bottom will continue.
In the past, growth of our dairy business- usually measured in cow numbers and milk production- has been a given, according to ourselves & our bankers. Now, vertical integration, not growth, may become the new norm. We must NOT produce milk that has no market. This is usually where the experts step in and say we have to get more efficient. We as dairymen have latched on to cost effective efficiencies and are always working on that. We are at about the point as an industry where cost cutting simply to stay in business will result in compromising the high milk quality that is expected by the consumer. .
Dairymen in the rest of the country are not happy with the current downturn in prices yet they remain profitable. There is no reason for them to cut back. Yet. It is a bigger problem for the west right today but it will soon be trouble for our eastern counterparts. It’s important to remember that we have more similarities as an industry than differences.
Until we cut production and cow numbers and raise the plateau of milk prices, we will continue to be unprofitable or just barely break-even. We are not making forward progress or even keeping our businesses viable for the future generation of family owners.
Investment in development of new dairy technology is slowing in this country because dairymen aren’t buying what the companies have to sell in this economic climate. China is adding lots of cows, using our technology and ideas. Those cows have to get fed and they are not going away as competition for our feed. Co-ops and manufacturers of milk products have to understand that for the long term viability of the western milk supply, prices have to come up to reflect the increased cost of production in the west for us to become healthy again as an industry.
We as dairymen have to get a backbone, work together to insist that these changes be made and keep a tight rein on supply. Making the needed milk has NEVER been a problem. Just pay us a fair, sustainable price for the high quality milk we produce and the rest will take care of itself. We don’t need low interest loans or more bank,just a fair price.
As I visit with neighbors & other dairymen, they all hope it will get better soon. Hope is not a strategy. Unless we, as an industry, get proactive in the very near future you can bet that the bleeding will go on for a very long time just the same or worse than 2009. The only people who have incentive or are going to fix this are dairymen. NOBODY is going to do this for us.

John Nye
Mountain View Dairy, Delta Utah

Tricks of the Trade

As I mentioned early last week, I was at the New York State FFA Convention where I was helping ensure that our Career Development Events went off without a hitch! Unfortunately, one night, I knelt down to talk with a CDE coordinator in the darkened auditorium and when I went to stand back up I realized that I had chosen the one spot in the auditorium that had gum on the floor! Talk about a sticky situation.  To make matters worse, I was wearing a brand new pair of dress pants.  I was left wondering how on earth I was going to salvage the pants so they’d see another day of wear.

So here’s my tip as we head into our finals weeks which will be followed by a week of celebration for all of us seniors who made it through.  If you ever wake up the day after a great party or accidentally sit in gum on a picnic, the way to get that gum off is to get an ice cube (as soon as possible) and rub it on the gum area gently so it solidifies the offending substance.  Then you can easily chip away at it (gloves will make it a little less disgusting) and wash the article of clothing. Voila! Your clothes are as good as new!

Aside from this one incident, my week at the New York State FFA Convention was a phenomenal experience where I was blessed to serve the current state officers and members by ensuring every student had a positive convention experience! I’m excited to share some of my adventures from the week with all of you but as I’m sure you can guess, missing a week of classes right before finals means that I’m drastically behind and need to focus on ensuring I’m prepared for my last finals week at Cornell! I’ll be sure to write again soon!

‘Selflessly dedicated to someone else’s success’

One of the greatest aspects about Cornell is the initiative to bring great guest lecturers to campus! This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by the 2011 National Teacher of the Year.  Michelle Shearer is an AP Chemistry and AP Physics teacher from Maryland and has spent the last year traveling across the world advocating for the teaching profession.  While Michelle shared many wonderful examples and ideas with our teacher education program students, the most important lesson I took away from her lecture was that teaching should not be someone’s back-up plan.  In the United States, teachers were once revered and respected-so much so that in colonial times it was an honor to host the town’s teacher in your home.  Today, however, teaching is often looked upon as an ‘easy profession.’  I’ve heard it countless times during my time at Cornell: ‘You came to Cornell just so you could be a teacher?’ or the statement that gets me fired up most, “If I don’t get that job, at least I can always be a teacher as a back-up plan!”  Michelle explained how she had wanted to be a teacher ever since middle school; and how to this day she continues to hear how teaching is a back-up plan.

The title of this post is someone’s attempt to sum-up teaching in six words; and I think its a great summary.  Teaching is not just about knowing the content of your field.  There a hundreds of brilliant physicists, biologists, and chemists throughout the nation; yet teaching requires relationships and an attitude of dedication to ensuring that each student gets what they need from the classroom environment.  Michelle Shearer was inspiring to listen to and I hope that some day, I can advocate for teaching so that teaching is elevated to a highly sought after career path.

One Week to Go!

It just hit me: I only have one week of classes (which for me equals 2 days) left for my undergraduate career! While Cornell’s academic calendar may indicate that there are two weeks left, during the last week of finals, I will actually be traveling up to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill with my work study position to help plan and implement a convention for 1000 high school students from across New York state! This also means that I will be missing Slope Day, a giant university-sponsored celebration that we’ve made it through yet another year of classes.

However, before I can start celebrating I have quite a few projects and essays to wrap up.  I have two unit plans which must include at least four lessons each, a 2000-word essay, and a 45-minute workshop to write and present.  I have a lot of work ahead of me but knowing that I only have one more week to go will help me stay focused and avoid the tempting “senioritis”!


Feeling Old!

So Cornell Days is upon us! For all of the ambassadors on campus that means helping out the accepted students find where they need to go and answer any of their concerns.  One family stopped and asked about the food science program.  Without a second thought I launched into an explanation of our introductory food science class where students work in teams to develop a new ice cream flavor which is then featured at our Dairy Bar for the next semester.  I even shared how one of the recipes was bought by a major ice cream company! As the family walked away, the other ambassador with me, turns and says, “You really know your facts! But I guess that comes with the territory when you’re a senior.”

Now I don’t know if the underclassman meant to imply it, however that comment made me feel old! And I’m just 21; I’m too young to feel old!

What Song Describes Your Life?

Recently I met with some of the Membership Candidates who are pledging the sorority I’m in (Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority) and one girl asked, “What song describes your life?” Yeah, try answering that one! For someone who really enjoys music and singing even though I’m no longer in a choir, picking one song to describe my life is tough.  In the end I chose “It’s Your Life” by Francesca Battistelli.  This song has special meaning to me since this was the song I chose to walk into when I retired as a New York FFA State Officer; however I also think this song is a great reminder that YOU control your life.  Other people don’t define you and other people’s decisions might affect you but ultimately we are each responsible for our own lives.

It’s really easy to forget that, especially when we don’t get the outcome we want in a class or on a test.  It’s easy to say, “That test was so unfair” or “the professor never went over the material” and while all of that might be true, it’s important to realize that it’s your life and while all of those things might be true, could you have studied more or attended that study session the professor held? That’s why this song describes my life.  It reminds me to stop and reflect before I start blaming or judging myself for my shortcomings and others! So yes, I’m up to my eyeballs in work for the next few weeks because I got behind.  Was it worth it? Absolutely.  I’m a little behind because I took time to go home and surprise my family and friends with a much needed visit.  It was my choice to make and it’s one that I’m very thankful I did!


Happy Easter to All!

I had a wonderful Easter going to church, coloring Easter eggs, and getting many of the chores done that I’ve been putting off for the past few weeks! While I wish I would have had time last week to color eggs and sit down to enjoy the experience, coloring eggs is a very convenient task to pair with making sure all of my chores were accomplished.  I put the eggs into the dye (after a quick trip to Tops since I forgot to buy white vinegar to include in the dye) and then went and folded my laundry.  When I came back, I had beautifully colored eggs, which I then topped off with my wonderful Disney stickers that came with my “Oliver and Company” DVD! 🙂

While March went out like a lion, April is coming on strong at Cornell too! As a senior, I have 28 days of classes left, 10 days of finals, and 49 days left until commencement! I’m continuously shocked when I remember that my time as an undergraduate is fading fast.  I still feel like I have so much left to accomplish here: so many classes I want to take, so many events that I can’t wait to take part in, and most of all so many friends that I’m not ready to leave!  Here’s hoping that the days slow down a bit so I can bask in my last month as a senior.

Flat Tire Fiasco

So sometimes in the life of a college student, things don’t go as planned; but then again, I don’t think anyone ever really plans to get a flat tire! I was on my way out to the Southern Cayuga FFA Banquet when the dreaded “thump, thump, thump” reached my ears and caused me to pull off the road.  While I was slightly annoyed at the inconvenience, I fortunately knew where to locate my spare, the jack, and the lug nut wrench.

You see, nearly five years ago when I was getting ready to take my road test to get the coveted “Junior License” my father informed me that the only way I could sign up for my driver’s test is when I could successfully change a tire, check the oil, and change the breaks.  I remember thinking that this was slightly unfair; none of my classmates had to know these things when they got their licenses, so why me? While changing the breaks is something I hope to never have to do, knowing how to check the oil and change a tire have definitely come in handy…and not just on my own vehicle!

With the help of my boyfriend loosening the lug nuts, we were able to get the spare on in under twenty minutes and I was only slightly behind for banquet practice.  So, while I may have complained about having to develop these vehicular skills in high school, I’m extremely grateful that my dad had the forethought to prepare me for the unexpected challenges of automotive maintenance!

Cornell Has Never Been So Sweet!

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