Cornell University was founded in 1865, after Ezra Cornell, an American businessman, made his fortune being the first to string telegraph wires on poles above ground. On the school’s official first day, October 7, 1868, a set of nine bells rang out at the opening ceremonies. Those bells have since been rehung in the McGraw Tower on campus and have expanded from nine to 21. Today, they continue to play daily concerts, making them some of the largest and most frequently played chimes in the world.
Throughout history, Cornell was home to many academic firsts. It was the first university in the U.S. to offer a major in American Studies, as well as the first to offer professorships in American History and American Literature. It was also the first university to teach Far Eastern languages, and the first to award degrees in journalism and veterinary medicine. Today, undergraduates at Cornell have access to over 4,000 courses in seven colleges, 80 majors, and 90 minors. As one of the greatest research institutions, Cornell encourages all undergraduates to participate in research, regardless of their field of study. Outside of class, there are more than 1,000 student organizations, with a community for nearly every passion, culture, and interest.
Cornell’s main campus stretches 2,300 acres in beautiful Ithaca in the heart of the New York Finger Lakes region. In addition to being home to one of the Ivy Leagues, Ithaca has been voted top 100 places to live and a top 10 recreation city. When they aren’t in class, students can take advantage of hiking trails on campus, sailing classes on Cayuga Lake, or one of the many courses offered by Cornell Outdoor Education. Ithaca was also voted one of the “foodiest” towns in America. In fact, Cornell’s dining program is ranked among the top 10 university dining experiences in the country. Whether you eat vegetarian, kosher, or halal, there are over 30 dining facilities to choose from on campus and many restaurants located in downtown Ithaca Commons.
But Cornell’s reach expands far beyond upstate New York. With locations in New York City, Washington D.C, Rome, Italy, and beyond, there are many opportunities for Cornellians to travel and study in the U.S. and around the world. For undergraduates interested in urban studies, Cornell offers an Urban Semester program in NYC, which gives pre-medicine and pre-professional students opportunities to study public health and service in low-income neighborhoods. Any undergraduate student can also opt to spend a semester at the Wolpe Center in D.C., where they can take Cornell courses and gain practical work experience in a variety of fields, from public policy to media/communications. Undergraduates can also spend a summer in Rome, with programs that focus on architecture design, studio art, Italian culture and literature, and European urban studies.
There are even travel opportunities for Cornell students when school is not in session. The Alternative Breaks Program, which is run by an undergraduate board, encourages students to spend their spring break somewhere other than Cancun by organizing service-learning trips to “heighten social awareness, enhance personal growth, and advocate lifelong social action.” Students interested in participating are required to submit an application, and as a part of a team, prepare for the trip beginning during the fall semester. Alternative Breaks partners with many agencies in New York City and elsewhere in the U.S. to address issues such as urban poverty, domestic violence, education reform, and environmental damage. Through programs like this, and the many others at Cornell’s Public Service Center, there are countless opportunities for Cornell students to broaden their perspectives locally and globally and develop leadership skills through giving back.