Catherwood Cookie Day

If the beloved annual tradition of “Catherwood Cookie Day” has taught me anything, it’s that sugar and butter tends to work wonders for your attitude at 8:40 on a Wednesday morning. Today, right in the middle of one of those world-on-your-shoulders kind of weeks, our fantastic library staff replaced the chairs in the lobby with two huge tables full of cookies.

Encouraged by their “yes, you are allowed to eat in the library: TODAY ONLY” sign, I’m inside enjoying my peanut butter cookie and apple juice. I’m working on more projects than can really fit in my long-suffering day planner, but I know I can handle it. It’s hard to say if my confidence in getting it all finished comes more from experience or comfort in knowing that the faculty and staff of ILR care enough to provide cookies for their students on weeks like this.

Either way, it’s a good feeling as I move through this hectic week and busy (but so fun!) weekend. After meeting new Cornell Tradition fellows in our Tradition in the Community event, a great excuse to visit the Cornell Plantations on an otherwise hectic Saturday, I get to watch Cornell school Yale in our Homecoming game. I’m spending Sunday in downtown Ithaca, coordinating the Cornell volunteers for this year’s Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival: I can’t wait for the pumpkin funnel cake and leaving my books in my room.

I’m running off to Labor Law and taking some cookies on my way out. I’m so convinced that, no matter how difficult things get over here, there is always someone to help. They may not always have cookies, but you never know when someone will go above and beyond for you. Today, between the cookies and all of the friends who have hugged me after seeing this week in my day planner, is yet another fine example.

Five Hours Later

Panic over impending prelims is starting to set in among my otherwise calm and collected friends, so we hiked up to Mann Library after brunch today. As fiercely loyal to the ILR library as I am, Mann may have an edge over Catherwood beat for 1) its classy art deco design, 2) its range of statistical software options, and 3) Manndible Cafe, the adorably-named snack bar just a few feet away from me. However, Mann falls way short on the comfortability of its chairs and the number of ILR friends I see every five minutes.

It’s probably for the best that I didn’t have distractions for the last five hours, as I have happily finished my Stats presentation for tomorrow (I know, I know, should have been done earlier.) While my friends are panic-studying for scary tests, I’ve had a pretty good time collecting and testing contemporary political data. My biggest challenges so far were assembling the dataset and using the unfamiliar statistical software. My options with a MacBook weren’t the best, but JMP on Mann’s computers draws pretty cute boxplots, so I can’t really complain. It hasn’t exactly been a monster test or unpleasant paper.

This presentation is one of very few big assessments I will have for a while. I’m a little worried about what a “take-home prelim” is, exactly, and why it had to be assigned on my birthday weekend, but that’s a very small sacrifice for an otherwise totally sweet schedule. I’m getting three credits and priceless guidance in my Stats class for studying a topic that interests me anyways, and even though it begins at 8:40, we stop meeting after the first presentation and have the rest of the semester to work on our projects. After this week, I won’t have a class that begins before 11:15 a.m. I’m also living it up in a two-credit pass/fail government class called Issues Behind the News, in which a different professor comes to present on a relevant issue each week. My remaining ILR classes, though tricky, seem to be completely worth the extra work.

I’m taking a break post-Stats and trying to find a good way to celebrate finishing the project. Something tells me that briefing a case in Labor Law may not be the best way?

Post-Constitution Day Blues

When I excitedly picked up my tickets to historian Garry Wills‘ talk about the Lincoln-Douglas Debates early last week, I was overwhelmed by the eerie sense that I was probably going to be single forever. Yesterday was also Constitution Day, by far my favorite federally-mandated holiday that was snuck into a 2004 Omnibus spending bill.

Even though celebrating the Constitution and plummeting the mean age of the attendees of yesterday’s lecture attendees may jeopardize my romantic future, it wasn’t a bad day for me. My fellow ILR sophomores spent Labor Law completely dissecting a 1944 Supreme Court decision on the nitty-gritty details of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. I love details and I love politics, so it should be perfect, right? Part of my problem this week was the mysterious cold that has affected the entire university.  However, I still spend approximately half of the class thinking I should be a lawyer, and the other half realizing I’m in way over my head and I have no idea what any of Section 8(a)(5) actually means.

At least I’m not alone. ILRies (“I Love Reading”) generally don’t bat an eyelash at three hundred pages per week in our history classes, but the eight-page Supreme Court decisions are throwing many of us for a loop. I’ll spend most of my weekend with the study group trying to figure it all out… hopefully outdoors because you have to take advantage of weather like this before it slips away.

I’m happy I went to the Wills lecture. He raised the point that modern audiences watch our leaders’ interviews and listen to speeches looking for gaffes rather than paying attention to substance or even rhetorical flair. Sad but true: my daily readership of Wonkette can only confirm it. I haven’t decided if that’s a natural consequence of our media and attention spans or it has more to do with journalism itself: the “grilling” format employed by my Sunday morning heroes. At least I know what to listen for this weekend!

I just got back from dinner in Collegetown with my beloved ILR Student Advisees, the coolest group of freshmen we have. Three of them ended up in my freshman year dorm – the beautiful Mews Hall – which I miss already. I got to reminisce about my happy days on 3West while still reassuring them that life on West Campus continues to rock. Life outside of freshman dorms is definitely a different experience, but I certainly believe that all it takes to be happy anywhere at Cornell is commitment. Friends in all five houses, Bethe House trivia games, my lovely suitemates, and our handsome fish, Hans A. Betta, make it pretty easy, too.

I’m enjoying a very light work weekend and trying to get ahead, which basically means copying and pasting campaign fundraising data into a spreadsheet.  My relationship with the Federal Elections Commission’s databases can be officially classified as love/hate. I just can’t wait to get the data into some equations and move on with all of the project(s.) I suddenly understand the point of research assistants!


Topics have been settled, I’ve figured out the best times to exercise, I’m officially in love with the West Campus House System, today’s chilly 60 degree weather is near perfect, and I have no prelims until the first week of October (which is my birthday, but whatever.) As usual, I have nothing to complain about.

Despite all the drama that went into finalizing topics, I’m pretty psyched about my papers. My Stats paper will study the members of the 110th Congress. I’m interested in the factors that determine a successful a reelection campaign, namely, if voting record really has anything to do with it.  I’ll be studying margin of victory in most recent reelection as a function of time in office, voting record, campaign contributions, public funds earmarked for their home state, committee leadership positions, and possibly age. (I’m mainly curious about my hero, the 90-year-old Senator Robert C. Byrd, and all of the opponents he has trounced over the 49 years he has been in office. Any former Senate Page can tell you that he absolutely made our experiences in Congress.)

On a completely different note, I am spending my semester in Labor Economics studying salaries of Congressional staff members and how they relate to graduate degrees obtained, or, Will an MPP Help Me Make More Money if I Work on the Hill? The legwork is going to be really, really painstaking, as Congress doesn’t like to digitize anything, but I’m excited about the prospect of covering something that isn’t studied very often. I’m also vainly hoping it tells me what to do after I graduate from ILR. It could happen.

I love how this has clearly become a semester about Congress when none of my classes are technically about it. That’s part of the joy of being ILR: training that seems specific but has applications all over the social sciences, humanities, and even natural sciences. I’m pretty sure my friends will kill me if I say “multidisciplinary approach” one more time, but this semester is a fine example.

… but we’ll see how thrilled I am when it comes time to hand something in.

(Almost) a Lake View

The not-too-shabby view of Carl Becker House and Cayuga Lake from my room in West Campus is a terrible reminder of everything I’m not doing today: I’m inside this morning trying to figure out the vexing problem of what I should study for the the rest of my semester in Stats. I’m truly excited to actually do the multivariate analysis, but choosing a topic has proved itself to be way more difficult than I anticipated. The main hitch is that I need at least 70 cases to write something worthwhile, so Springsteen albums (23) are out. I can’t study song frequency either, since trying to quantify the religious experience that is a concert is pretty close to impossible. I’ve considered studying the election, but Ms. Cynical American Teenager has kind of had enough of the conventions and can’t wait for November 4. Historical analyses are tricky, too, so I’ve basically exhausted my interests: politics, history, and the Boss. Maybe brunch at our beloved RPCC on North Campus, a mainstay of the Cornell freshman experience, will spark some creativity?

So Far, So Good

All five my of my classes are looking great. Even though I’m in fewer credits than last semester, I know I’m in for a challenge, both in content and volume. The work sounds pretty awesome so far: I have a total of three papers which are essentially extended statistical analysis in any subject I choose. I can’t help but feeling like I’m getting academic credit for investigating things I’ve wondered about since I got to ILR.

This is also the first semester where I get to see the “interdisciplinary” angle of ILR that makes it so unique. My Labor Econ and Labor Law classes have overlapped at least six times since classes started last Thursday. I keep reminding myself that there are very few undergrads in the U.S. who get the chance to study all of these subjects together, which makes for such an unbeatable experience.

On the flipside, I think I should hand my GPA to my Labor Econ professor right now, and I had to drop $132 for a leather bound Labor Law textbook. I keep coming up with excuses not to work out (too tired, too much reading, the pool is all the way up the slope, I’ll die with wet hair in the subzero temperatures of 105 Ives…) and my standing meal dates are all up in the air (anyone looking for lunch company on MWF?) I am a hopeless creature of habit, and I love my routines. It’s just a matter of time before all of this semester falls into place.

Back to School

The usual stampede that is Add/Drop began this morning with none of the rage, tears, or running down the hallway of the previous two I’ve witnessed. Our new software bumped this rite-of-passage event from 6:30 a.m. to a reasonable 10 a.m., and I suppose that these things don’t seem quite as bad when they take place in the daytime. Though none of us have been able to even log in yet, no one is really panicking. I’m chalking this up to my residence in upperclassman housing: I suppose we’re seasoned veterans who know not to worry.

Pre-enroll was freaking miraculous for me last semester, so I’m only online trying to drop one class and add another: a Phys Ed instead of an academic class, how appropriate! Since I need to resuscitate my wounded GPA, I’m unfortunately dropping a three hundred-level Anthro class I would ordinarily love to take. Thursday morning Yoga, here I hopefully come.

Orientation Week is winding to a close, which mostly means I can finally wash the “Orientation Volunteer” shirt I’ve (eww) been wearing since Friday. I’m looking forward to getting into the rhythm of classes and routine pool hours, even though it will mean less time for all of the fun I’ve had this week. I’ve met many new people and explored many new restaurants. I also got to enjoy cheating at “Clue” and the hilarity of wheeling an office chair from our friend’s room in Cascadilla Hall to West Campus…

I’ve watched little bit of Democratic National Convention here and there (amen for streaming C-SPAN!) but I can’t help but feeling like a cynical, jaded teenager when I contemplate how my faith in the Democratic Party has eroded since 2004. Senator Kennedy’s speech still rocked, though, and I thought Senator Clinton brought down the house… but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m just half-heartedly waiting through the speeches for Bruce Springsteen’s surprise appearance. Thursday night, I swear.

Out-of-State Kids at the Late Show

This time last year, on the eve of move-in day, I was sitting in a hotel room with my nervous parents in Sayre, Pennsylvania (why you should make reservations now.) I poured over my Orientation Guide and trying to make a schedule of everything I wanted to do. One year later, as a sophomore and Orientation Leader, I am about to help the same nervous freshmen build their lives at Cornell and Mews Hall…. in about six hours. I spent tonight in my room in Hans Bethe House trying to make a schedule of everything I have to do, complete with consecutive 7 a.m. to midnight days. Am I really pulling all-nighters before classes even start?

It’s all an eerie sense of de ja vu, only this time I got a Lincoln Shirt and an insane amount of volunteer hours out of it. Just as I did last year, I pretended to not have read the New Student Reading Project because I’m way too cool for it. (Though, no lie, I read and immensely enjoyed Lincoln at Gettysburg.) I even got phone numbers but no last names, introduced myself to strangers while hanging up welcome letters on the doors of our freshmen, and almost lost my keys. You can go home again?

Training, a two-day affair, was actually quite enjoyable. It not easy to keep eight hundred Cornell students inside on a beautiful day, but the Orientation Steering Committee managed to make it lighthearted and fun. Making us laugh at the ungodly hour of  8:45 was some impressive work, too.

It’s been a crazy whirlwind of seeing old friends and making new ones, especially putting names to the faces of ILRies I see all the time in Catherwood. We’re trying to get creative with the icebreakers: “name, hometown, favorite notable labor conflict of the twentieth century…”

I’m pumped for move-in day tomorrow, even the waking up at 6:30 part. A smooth move-in is simply the right way to get started in a new place, so I’m hoping my big smile and classy Orientation nametag will help the new residents of Mews live up to the standard we set last year.

As per usual, I have a good feeling about all this.

Itching for Something to Start

Welcome everybody (ok, mom…) to my Life on the Hill blog! I am thrilled to be here and looking forward to my official start as a blogger just a few months. The entries will begin when I return to Ithaca on August 19 as an Orientation Leader for new Cornellians. In the meantime, check out my About Me, Academics, and Choosing Cornell sections. Leave a comment or drop me a line anytime.

Though legit thrilled to get back to school, my friends, and my home in Ives Hall, I am having an awesome summer as a Legislative Intern at the National Archives. Its Center for Legislative Archives, where I work, is responsible for preserving the records of Congress in addition to important public outreach functions. I work with people who love talking history as much as I do and have actually made a living out of it! (An additional shout-out to my fellow interns and history junkies Lauren and Liz.) We are doing a good deal of background research on the historical context and important players- seriously, ask me anything about Henry Clay- in events where Congress has shaped American history. Our work is a perfect intersection of history and politics, and whether or not it gives me any career direction, I am loving what I’m doing.

Summer should continue to literally continue to rock: I’m taking a brief break from War Hawks and Radical Republicans to catch my second Bruce Springsteen show this summer! I also think I’m in for a fabulous sophomore year, though it has very big shoes to fill.

The ILR Experience from Ithaca and Beyond

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