A welcome from Jim Schechter

Director, Cornell University Summer College


Welcome to Cornell University and Summer College. You are now part of a 50-year tradition of high school students' participation in the academic life of the university.

Unlike 50 years ago, the program is quite large, with more than 1,500 students representing 56 countries, 40 states, and 736 cities. Students in the crowd today represent the program's reach. Sitting among you is a cadet from a military academy in North Carolina; a dancer from Chicago here to study fashion; a student from India ready to immerse himself in engineering; and students from Latin America and Europe who have traveled here to study everything from political science to art.

Throughout the admissions process, you impressed us with your creativity, intellects, and flair. I can't help but think of the keen applicant who wrote, "Something that distinguishes me from my classmates is that I can roll 45 T-shirts per hour into the size of a burrito." Yes, we're certain that we've identified the best of the best.

The program's scale and the diversity among this group reflect the world of opportunities and resources Cornell offers. This 150-year-old university boasts 15 colleges and schools offering more than 100 fields of study. Summer College students have access to 19 libraries, a planetarium, an arboretum, a movie theater, and an untold number of interesting people engaged in exciting work. In three or six weeks you will leave with not only a better sense of what Cornell offers, but also a better sense of who you are and what you want out of life.

To accomplish these goals, you must be committed to both your courses and your summer community. I encourage you to introduce yourself to as many people as possible and take advantage of every resource at your disposal. You are not confined by high school classmates' perceptions of who you are or what you do. This is your opportunity to stretch and grow with the full support of staff, faculty, and an intellectually curious set of new friends from around the world.

The courses are fast-paced and rigorous. You may have a history of procrastinating, even going so far as to tout your ability to cram your way to good grades at the last minute. It's time to mend your ways. What worked at home won't help you in an accelerated college class. We've arranged all the resources you need to be successful, including the writing and math tutors from Sunday through Thursday night. But, our exceptional faculty, teaching assistants, and wider academic resources are only the superstructure of success. It's your active engagement with everything at your disposal, starting now, that will make this an enriching experience.

We're proud to emphasize that your teachers are some of Cornell's finest faculty, their scholarship matched by their passion for teaching. Working alongside the professors are teaching assistants whose primary task is seeing that you understand course content and what you need to do in order to be successful. A quick tip for success is getting to each of their office hours; their time is reserved for you and not the unknown special student you think they'd prefer to meet.

If, in the rush of planning, you haven't contacted student disability services to register any individual needs, please do so at the beginning of the week.

Some of you may have already visited our basement office in Day Hall, the university's main administrative building. We're ready to support each of you, whether it's to talk about your academic, social, or personal concerns. Please contact me at jas349@cornell.edu or Associate Director Janna Dawn so we can meet and discuss what's on your mind.

No less important than this generous academic support is the social and medical support. Your residential life program director Brandee Nicholson, (who you'll meet in a couple minutes) and her terrific staff of residential community advisors and graduate student interns, have structured a full menu of social activities. They'll also be conducting nightly check-ins and making sure everyone abides by the house rules and code of conduct that you signed before coming.

I know that, at some point in your life, your parents might have told you that rules are in place for your safety. Your safety is pre-eminent with us as well. We encourage you to walk with others and, if needed, use one of the 123 Blue Light phones on campus that are a direct connection to Cornell Police. Just lift the receiver or press the button. Use the phones when you are lost, want to report a suspicious incident or a medical emergency, or for any other kind of assistance or information. Please program the CUPD number, 607.255.1111, into your cellphone to trigger a direct campus response to any emergency.

Like all students, you may want to get off campus for a break some time. In this case, the TCAT bus system or local taxis can meet your needs.

You've heard the saying, "Ithaca is Gorges." The gorges' beauty also poses a particular challenge, as you'll see in a short film today. You need to marvel at the gorges without going in the water. Hot day, doesn't matter. The undertow is extremely dangerous. Through the local bus system, you'll be able to access Ithaca's beautiful state parks where cool waterfalls or lakefront beaches—with legal swimming—will cut any stress down to size.

View the Gorge Safety film at cornell.edu/video/gorge-safety-information

Like your parents, we want you to eat well, sleep well, and stay safe. But, if you do get sick, there is 24/7 on-call medical support through Cornell Health. And, if stress exacts a toll or pre-existing conditions swamp you, Cornell Health boasts an exceptional team of counselors. I'm glad to make introductions if you want the support. Should you need other emergency care, we will transport you to the Cayuga Medical Center and Urgent Care after hours. Staff will be in touch with parents if students spend a night in the hospital or are prescribed antibiotics.

Lastly, parents. Thanks for making this summer possible. Your efforts are not lost on any of us. Because of your scheduling, financing, fundraising, and driving, your son's or daughter's world just got that much bigger.

To keep track of our activities, follow the Google link to the social activities calendar on our home page and follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. And students, text, email, and call your parents. Cornell's Summer College is at its best when it's a shared experience.