Epilogue: Moving Beyond the Hill.


Last month, Reunion gave me a final taste of the campus I had called home for the past four years. That said, I didn’t have time to take much in besides at the Class of 2005’s headquarters in Clara Dickson Hall, between lugging bags of ice and registering alumni. It was an exhausting yet exciting end to my Cornell career. In true Cornell style, I made new friends throughout the weekend (despite the fact that graduation had come and gone), especially with my four co-clerks. I departed Ithaca on a cool, drizzly, and foggy Sunday afternoon that perfectly define Ithaca’s weather in my mind (well, besides Ithacation, of course). For the first time in a long time, I was leaving without knowing when I would return.

I returned home to Connecticut, where, two days later, I started training at the job that I had accepted four days after graduating from Cornell. I’m working in alumni relations at the school I attended from fifth through twelfth grades, Greens Farms Academy. The opportunity presented itself towards the end of April and by the beginning of June, I had the position. While it might not be the first career you’d think of when you see that I was an International Agriculture & Rural Development major, it actually fits my interests and passions well. My work with prospective students and alumni, combined with my experience with various forms of student media during my Cornell years prepared me well for the job. I’ll be able to build up a strong skill set in non-profit communications, which is where I see myself working for the foreseeable future. I’ll also get to advise the school on its new World Perspectives program; from what I hear of the program so far, my academic background could be put to good use.

As I settle in to the next chapter of my life, I reluctantly bring to a close the chronicle of my last three years at Cornell. Thank you for reading, for commenting, for getting in touch, and for asking questions. Even though I’m signing off, I’ll still be reachable. As Cornell alumni, we have our email addresses for life, so just head to the ‘Contact’ tab above and shoot me a line.

The Last Chapter: Senior Week and Graduation Weekend.

The forecast was dreamlike. Low 80’s and sunny, as far as the little forecast icons could stretch across my screen. When has that happened in Ithaca in the month of May? Never, seemed to be the consensus.

Hintsa_052310_0317Senior week was a glorious period of pre-graduation celebration under the Ithaca sun that allowed us outgoing members of the class of 2010 to enjoy one final week at Cornell, without exams, without obligations, and with our friends. I had made an effort to schedule as little as possible into my senior week because it was an opportunity to not have every moment of the day scheduled. I could join friends at a barbeque if the weather held (which it did, all week long and beyond), or I could head to the top of the clocktower to watch the sunset with friends (see picture above). The plan worked out quite well, but by the end of the week, I was definitely ready for graduation to come along.

Graduation weekend kicked off with Convocation on Saturday, with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivering the convocation address. Cornell’s convocation webpage suggested that attendees dress in business casual attire, and I was more than intrigued by people’s interpretations of such a suggestion. My favorite of the family members entering the stadium? The grandmother in the shiny silver suit. Pelosi’s address was okay, but I thought it was a bit too much like something she’d say while campaigning for votes. Senior Class President (and Daily Sun sex columnist) Jeff Katz delivered a surprisingly touching and humorous address that many considered better than Pelosi’s. Saturday evening brought dinner with my family, which we did at a restaurant on Owasco Lake (the Finger Lake that’s east of Cayuga Lake). We didn’t have to worry about overcrowded restaurants or reservations six months in advance — it was a nice respite from the hectic streets of Ithaca for a few hours.

Sunday was the big day: commencement. I had managed to get pulled into making the programs and slideshows for two graduation receptions that day, and consequently got a hearty 3.5 hours of sleep before I had to get up for a 7:30am breakfast with graduates from my major. After some sustenance and some conversation, it was off to the Arts Quad for the requisite pictures of my dorky self in front of the clocktower and other campus landmarks. Then it was off to find friends for more photos, and then to line up according to college at different points around the Arts Quad. From there, the processional started and we made our way through campus as friends and family looked on, cheering, waving, and holding up signs. Off-duty officers from the Cornell Police Department stood watching us outside of their offices in Barton Hall as the kitchen staff from the Statler hotel stood on the other side. All of Cornell was out to see us make our way to Schoellkopf Stadium, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit overwhelming. That said, nothing prepared me for entering Schoellkopf Stadium and seeing the entire crescent of bleachers filled to capacity. Apparently there were 35,000 people in attendance, all there to watch us graduate. Now that’s a bit overwhelming.

MarkHintsa_053110_0134President Skorton’s address was awesome, just as every other speech I’ve seen him deliver has been. He outlined four things for us to remember and managed to connect it all to our collective experiences as Cornellians and didn’t veer off onto any unnecessary tangents. Sitting under the bright, sunny sky in 85 degree weather while wearing a polyester black gown leaves you yearning for shade and those face-numbingly cold winter days that most people usually associate with Ithaca. After jubilating in our new status of Cornell alumni (!?), all of the students dispersed across campus to their major-specific diploma receptions. Mine consisted of my advisor standing behind a folding table in a tent on the Ag Quad. After getting my diploma and taking a few photos, I was off to celebrate.

A nap was definitely necessary that evening after all of the day’s activity; afterwards, I found myself scrubbing every surface in the apartment while packing up all of my belongings with the goal of being out the door by noon the next morning. The goal was achieved, and I was on my way home — for a week, at least. Then it was back to the hill for to work at reunion…

[Photos: Caitlin Strandberg, Mark Hintsa]

When There’s Nothing Left To Do.


On Monday night I completed the last final exam of my undergraduate career — Introduction to Wines — and promptly found a fellow Sun editor outside the building. Our destination was the Regent Lounge in the Statler Hotel, right across the street from Barton Hall, where our 700-person class was taking the exam on the indoor track.

Our reward to ourselves for completing our undergraduate educations? Some wine (naturally) and a cheese plate. Unwinding after umpteen years of schooling does not come easily, but I’m hoping that our upcoming senior week will help. I think I speak for the entire class of 2010 when I say that we deserved it. Here’s to the final weeks on the hill…

Viking Donuts and Other Gastronomic Adventures Downtown.

How could a restaurant called “Waffle Frolic” be bad? Fellow Daily Sun photographer Simon and I asked ourselves just that as we learned about downtown Ithaca’s newest eating establishment last Monday. We were wrapping up our last night of desking at the Sun and hadn’t eaten dinner yet. A couple of blocks away on the Ithaca Commons was Waffle Frolic, a restaurant centered around…well…waffles. The enticing panini menu caught our attention before we could even start considering a waffle. Despite the fact that they only serve paninis until 2pm (as advertised on a tiny sign that we didn’t see), the enthusiastic girls behind the counter were willing to make us two tuna melts. The concept of a viking donut (or, as they’re called in Danish, Æbleskiver) was too intriguing to pass up. So we got a small bowl of four of these donut hole-sized pastries filled with Nutella and three filled with lemon curd.

In short, both the tuna melt and the viking donuts were two of the greatest gastronomical experiences I’ve had over the past four years in Ithaca. The one part that makes me sad? I’m only in Ithaca until the end of the month, when something by the name of graduation occurs. (scary.)

Housing: The Four Year Recap.

After I was accepted to Cornell, one of the most popular discussion topics on the various online fora was housing. Since the topic seems to attract so much attention, I’m devoting this post to a run-down of my housing arrangements over my past four years at Cornell. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

Freshman Year

After you commit to attending Cornell, you are sent a questionnaire that gauges your living style (things like when you wake up, what type of music you like to listen to while studying, etc.). Eventually, Cornell gets back to you with a housing assignment for your first year on campus. All freshmen live on north campus, and the diversity of housing options is impressive. There are suite systems, halls and buildings of all singles, old buildings (which generally have bigger rooms), new buildings (yeah…smaller rooms…), and everything else you could imagine.

I requested a single and got one in Court-Kay-Bauer Hall (CKB), in which each room opens up to the hall, but the rooms are bunched in alcoves of two doubles, a single, and a shared bathroom. The building often is referred to as the “Court Resort” since it’s one of the newest residence halls on north campus has things that many other residence halls don’t (like air conditioning…but really, how much are you going to need air conditioning in Ithaca?).

My hall (4C) was the only all-male hall in the building, and even though I’m six feet tall, I’ve never felt shorter in my life. Having the six incoming members of the men’s basketball team living down the hall didn’t help.

Sophomore year

Towards the end of freshman year, I entered the housing lottery for on-campus housing as a sophomore. Because the online room selection time slot that some friends and I had been assigned was not exactly optimal, we ended up with few options. On-campus housing is guaranteed for freshmen and sophomores, but we soon realized we wouldn’t be living on west campus, where the bulk of the on-campus housing for upperclassmen is located. Chris and I, originally looking for singles, decided to room together in a double, and our options were the Latino Living Center, Ujamaa, and Thurston Court. Since we weren’t exactly ethnically eligible for the first two (although technically anyone can live in any program house), we decided on Thurston Court, despite never having heard of it and not knowing where it was.

030907_14341It turned out that luck was on our side. Because Cornell was in the process of building new residence halls on west campus, they decided to open Thurston Court – normally reserved for grad students – to undergrads to make enough beds available. Located in a quiet neighborhood a few hundred feet away from the Fall Creek Gorge suspension bridge on north campus, Thurston Court wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. We ended up having a double that had its own small kitchen and a bathroom – definitely not something you can find on west campus. I was also able to park my car right next to the building and we were only a short walk and a ninety-something step climb to central campus on the other side of the gorge. Dining proved to be the biggest hurdle, but I quickly became accustomed to walking across the gorge to west campus, where I would eat with my friends who had gotten better time slots in the housing lottery.

Junior year

I started off junior year with a beautiful view of the snow-capped Andes from my room…in Santiago, Chile. My semester abroad was spent living with a host family in a residential neighborhood of the Chilean capital, so that doesn’t really count if we’re just talking about Cornell here.

Returning back to Cornell for the spring semester, I subleased in a not-so-great apartment in an old, pretty run-down house in Collegetown – the main off-campus living area just south of Cornell’s campus. I was living in the room that a friend had vacated while abroad in France for the spring semester. Since I was living on the top floor and the building had a slanted roof, I had to partially duck while using parts of the bathroom. One great advantage was that I had an unobstructed view of the wide open western sky, and got to see my fair share of breathtaking sunsets from the comfort of my desk.

Senior year

Searching for off-campus housing can be quite an adventure, and that adventure usually starts about one year before you actually plan to inhabit the place you’re looking to call home. As a result, my friends and current roommates were the ones doing the searching at the beginning of my junior year when I was in Chile. A few Skype conversations on my end and a few apartment tours on their end landed us in a great, very reasonably priced apartment in a house near the center of Collegetown but still on a quiet street. The apartment is better in nearly every aspect, save for that view of the western sky I had last year. Always good to end on a high note.

The Big Red Universe Finds Me Again.

This weekend I was down in Connecticut at a global health and innovation conference that I’ve attended for the past three years. While you’ll never see me performing cataract surgery in a tent in sub-saharan Africa (or anywhere else for that matter), this so-called “meeting of the minds” allows me, as a student looking for paths to pursue after graduation, to learn about what some of the most driven and interesting people in the world of development are doing these days. During a session centered around the topic of food security, I heard a woman speak from a group called HarvestPlus, which works to fortify staple crops in sub-saharan Africa with essential nutrients.

Speaking with her briefly following her presentation, I learned that:

  1. She knows my Food Policy for Developing Nations professor, Per Pinstrup-Andersen, very well.
  2. She, like me, grew up in a non-agricultural suburb of New York City…
  3. AND the school where she decided to pursue an agriculture degree was Cornell.
  4. She currently works in communications, which is one of my primary areas of interest in the realm of international development.

“You have a very similar trajectory to mine, it seems,” she remarked to me as we parted ways. Yeah, you don’t say.

The Arts Quad: Where Cornell Comes Together.

Friday, February 26, 2010

After the most significant snowstorm of the academic year (and of the past three-ish years, I’d say), students (and even some faculty and administrators) from across campus came to the Arts Quad for what would be probably the biggest snowball fight in Cornell’s long history. Arranged via Facebook, the snowball fight became a viral discussion topic in every corner of campus. The chatter only intensified as the snow began to fall. I brought my still camera and video camera along to document the experience…

big white blanket.


preparing the ammunition.

Snowpocalypse 2010: Battle for the Arts Quad from Matt Hintsa on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Following an especially difficult week, a student-organized “Lift your Spirits, Cornell” event was held on the Arts Quad. Despite having been planned only a few days beforehand, estimates placed the student attendance at about 1000 students. Fortunately the weather on St. Patrick’s day was especially nice, which undoubtedly encouraged people to head out to the arts quad. Student performance groups ranging from breakdancers to a cappella singers entertained the crowd in between short speeches by top administrators and student leaders. Never before had I seen Cornell come together like it did on that day. The chorus and glee club’s performance of the alma mater sent chills down my spine. If there was ever a time to be proud to be a Cornellian, that was it.

lift your spirits, cornell.

caring community.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Had summer already arrived? If the recent weather was any indication, the answer is yes. If you judge off the significantly colder weather of the past 36 hours, the answer is most definitely no. That said, when the mercury rises and the sun starts to shine once again, the arts quad is the place to de-pale-ify yourself. Thursday was a glorious 80 degree day, and while the sun wasn’t shining at its brightest, that didn’t keep people away.

a brief interlude of summer.

Reflections on a Rough Week.

Last week was a week that no Cornellian ever wants to repeat. On Thursday and Friday, we lost two members of our community to Fall Creek Gorge, which runs the length of the northern section of campus. Even though my editorship at the Daily Sun had officially come to a close less than a week earlier, I was covering for my successor who was out of town starting Thursday. A campus already shaken by the deaths of an unusually high number of students since the start of the academic year started to get scared.

On Friday afternoon I stood in my kitchen, preparing some food before heading to my last Cornell hockey game. My phone started vibrating, and when I saw the name of a Daily Sun news editor on my caller ID, I knew something had to be up. I literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing; reports of another body in the gorge? I thought to myself, Didn’t this happen yesterday? Within seconds of hanging up the phone I was mass-texting photographers to see if anyone could help out with coverage (it turns out all of the emergency activity had subsided by then). “Not. Again.” I repeated aloud to myself.

Later that evening I had to explain to my housemates that the latest somber email from the university actually dealt with a different death than the one that had occurred on Thursday. This seemed to be a common misconception among other students I heard conversing throughout Friday and Saturday. As I walked over any of the bridges spanning Cascadilla Gorge near Collegetown, every conversation seemed to turn to an attempt to understand what was happening.

As I write this, the end of last week seems like ages ago. For that, I’m thankful. While the memories of our recent whirlwind of tragic events won’t fade from my memory or Cornell’s collective memory anytime soon, the campus has come together in a way I’ve never witnessed before. We’ve all come to realize that Cornell – already a bright and vibrant community, in my opinion – can become a better community if we all take the time to look out for our peers, to talk through problems, and to ask for help when we need it.

If the outreach, unity, and strength that Cornellians have shown since the beginning of the week are any indication of what the future might hold, I’m hopeful.

From France to Indonesia in a Weekend


A couple of Fridays ago, my weekend started off with “An Evening at the French Renaissance Court” at the Johnson Museum of Art on campus. A friend in the History of Art Majors Society had recruited me as an event photographer for this event that took participants back into the sixteenth century – allowing them to sample typical dishes of the time, listen to assorted music on the harpsichord and lute, hear poetry from the era, and also tour the corresponding exhibit of architectural renderings and other pieces of interest. The evening was probably one of the classiest Friday evenings I’ve had during my time on the hill, and was a welcome – if brief – respite from the bustling streets of collegetown.

The following day, on Saturday, my fellow editors and staffers at The Cornell Daily Sun spent eight hours in a lecture hall electing the next editorial board for the paper. As we left that room, my term as photography editor came to a close, meaning that on Sunday, I wouldn’t have to be at the Sun for the entire evening – a rarity for me in my Cornell years.

What to do with all of that free time on a Sunday? My housemate and I ventured to Willard Straight Hall for the Indonesian Food Festival, put on by the Cornell Indonesian Association (which amusingly goes by the CIA). An Indonesian colleague in a group project in one of my classes had invited us to come, and what better way to celebrate my first free Sunday than by sampling food from a country I knew almost nothing about? The food combined a variety of flavors, textures, and ingredients that I haven’t really had before all together as a meal (bright green rice gelatin, anyone?). The event was so high-profile that the Indonesian Consul of New York came up and joined us in the Straight’s Memorial Room as a guest of honor (not to mention that one of the primary sponsors was the national bank of Indonesia!). Two cultural events in one weekend, both unlike anything I’ve experienced before at Cornell.

‘Temblor’ vs. ‘Terremoto’: An Important Lesson in Spanish Vocabulary.

ruta de evacuación tsunami.

One of the last things my Chilean host brother asked me as I packed up to leave Santiago after four months of studying abroad in the Chilean capital was, “Sentiste el temblor?” (“Did you feel the earthquake?”). “Cuándo?”, I responded. When did this so-called temblor occur? Apparently it had happened seconds beforehand. Part of me didn’t want to believe him, but when I got in the van to head to Santiago’s airport only minutes later, the driver of the van asked me the same exact question. On what was already a difficult day – one on which I was leaving a country that I had come to love after a semester – this only made me more frustrated. Somehow I had managed to live in an active seismic zone for a semester and had never actually experienced an earthquake that I could feel. Having tracked USGS data occasionally throughout my time in the southern hemisphere, I had apparently been in several earthquakes, but none that I could sense. Along with having seen a penguin in the wild, I had hoped to leave Chile having experienced a minor earthquake (temblor).

A temblor. Not a terremoto.

Fast forward from December 2008 to this past Saturday at 3:38AM. I was about to go to sleep when I received a message from a friend informing me that there had been a huge earthquake in Chile. Reading the BBC article, I could only think about my friends and colleagues in the country. An 8.8 on the Richter scale was no temblor. This was an all-outterremoto. I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned the location of the epicenter, about 200 miles south of Santiago. The region of Maule isn’t exactly the most densely populated part of Chile, and I had only passed through it while on the way to other regions further south in the country. I went to bed with hopes that everyone I know was okay, but in reality I had no clue what their status was.

I woke up to panoramic photos of massive destruction on the homepage of La Tercera, my Chilean newspaper of choice. Images of people sleeping on sidewalks, fishing boats laying sideways on city streets, and collapsed overpasses in Santiago filled my screen. The photos and related articles were published under the overarching headline of “Megaterremoto en Chile”.

A Megaterremoto. Not a terremoto.

I immediately sent an email to my host mother to check in. For a few days, I hadn’t received a response, but news from a friend’s host family in the neighborhood was promising: no injuries or major damage. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for communities in Chile’s Region VIII, home to the country’s second-largest city, Concepción. In September of 2008, my fellow students and I had traveled to Concepción and the nearby town of Penco, along with other sites in the region. We called Penco home for a few days, staying at a hotel a few blocks from the town’s beach. Spread throughout the town were signs (as pictured above) with arrows that read “Ruta Evacuación de Tsunami” that depicted a gigantic wave and a person running away from the wall of water. As I continued to read through news articles about the quake, I came upon a piece that made me realize how lucky I was. Penco had been hit by a 6m/20ft tsunami soon after the quake, but the Chilean Navy never considered there to be a tsunami threat until after numerous coastal communities had already been hit by the powerful waves. Fortunately the destruction wasn’t catastrophic as it was in other nearby towns such as Talcahuano.

Further reading has informed me to the plight of other towns I had visited (such as Curicó) and the dangers that still exist for the country. Cornell’s Chilean community is relatively small, but students are coming together to make even the smallest difference.

veronica y yo.On Monday evening, I received an email from my host mother confirming that she and her family were all okay. The phrase that stuck with me most from her email was the following:

Vivimos un infierno, fue una noche de horror. (We lived through hell, it was a night of horror).

Confirmation that anything that exceeds temblor status is just terrifying.

another beautiful day at cornell

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