[MUSIC PLAYING] JEFF COWIE: The first-year experience is really about figuring out what Cornell is, who you are, what your major is, how you're going to fit into this incredibly diverse, rich, intellectual environment. You know, for four years, you get to do whatever you want, to think and study and breathe these ideas that are floating around in this place.
MICHELE WILBUR: I think, in general, Cornell focuses on building the well-rounded student. They're here to study. That's their main goal, but that can get really stressful. And so the idea is being able to offer them something beyond just their education.
So that they connect with their friends. And other students have the opportunity to learn and meet new people.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: Hi. Come in and see my room.
This is my roommate, Michele.
MICHELE RODNEY: Hi.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: So when we first moved in, we obviously brought a lot of stuff with us-- posters, a lot of decorations and so forth.
MICHELLE: It was a lot to carry up.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: Yeah, I actually got here first and then Michelle got here. And it was kind of interesting first meeting each other. We had never met each other before, so I don't know.
MICHELLE: Yeah, we had just talked on Facebook, actually.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: Yeah.
NEIL LEWIS: I remember my move-in day. I was overwhelmed.
MICHELE RODNEY: The movers were really helpful. They just picked up your stuff and helped you get all settled. And I remember when my parents left to go home and I was just so nervous and excited for my classes to start and for my four years start here.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: Yeah, it really is a lot of nervous energy, where you don't really know what to do with yourself. You're trying to get unpacked and get your room looking OK. And you're trying to meet people, remember everyone's name. And eventually, it all just pretty much works out.
NEIL LEWIS: You'll have your faculty advisor, your major advisor, your college advisor, your peer adviser. And these people you'll meet with once or twice a year throughout your Cornell career, but your resident advisor is always here. You'll come home, their door is wide open. You can tell them about whatever you're experiencing, ask for advice, et cetera. We're just here for the student.
I'm Neil Lewis. I'm a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in economics and psychology.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: We had a meeting that night, actually, where we met everyone else on the floor.
NEIL LEWIS: At the beginning of the fall semester, the resident advisors, that's when most of our programming, I'd say, occurs. There's a lot of icebreakers or general community building programs to get people to know each other.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: Which ones?
MICHELE RODNEY: Oh, the RA meeting.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: Yup, that was a lot of fun.
NEIL LEWIS: The first week, at least in Donlon, every single day, there's a different program to get people not just on the floors to know each other, but there are 465 people in this building, so we try to get as many people to know each other as possible.
MICHELE RODNEY: It was nice, though, having the meeting the first night because you get there and you're so nervous. And they have things planned, though, so you almost don't have time to be really nervous and home-sick.
YSAURA DEUNAS-WOLFSON: Yeah.
NEIL LEWIS: There is a very supportive community at Cornell. And that's something I really appreciate. There's never been a time in my two years that I felt, oh, I am alone. I have no idea what to do, where to turn for help. There's a wide range of resources.
And Cornell does put a lot of effort into making sure that a support network is there. And it's really beneficial.
MICHELE WILBUR: A lot of our staff gets really friendly with our students as well. We have, particularly here-- just because I'm here-- but I'm thinking about our door checkers. They know the students by name. They look for them in the morning.
A lot of our students will come-- let's say they come in every day at 8:30 and they don't come in that day, I will tell you that our door checker is looking for them. So they develop that relationship, too. And I think that's really important for the student, especially in that first semester when they move here.
There are so many things going on in any given month. And that's something that we are proud to be able to offer to the student-- is not just food, but a dining experience.
There are over 30 places to eat on campus. So a lot of times, I think parents might get a little bit nervous that students will go hungry. You know, they stock them up, before they leave, in their rooms.
There are a lot of different choices in terms of meal plans. We have dining events both on North Campus, West Campus, and Central Campus. So there are different dining opportunities in all parts of campus.
We have coffee shops. We have cafes. We have sandwich shops, pizza, salad bars. You name it, we have it.
One thing that we're really proud to say that we have are choices. And we really try to emphasize the fact that somebody can come in and they can eat healthy every day, every meal, but they can also go the complete opposite way and eat lots of fried food and all that unhealthy stuff.
We label for the eight major food allergens. So any time a student is going to see an entree served, we have the allergens label. So they know that they should stay away from that if they have that allergy.
And we also have a kosher station right here at Appel. So we certainly factor in any religious dietary laws as well.
So we try to really tailor to the student. We're serving so many meals every day that we like to really emphasize that we have so many choices. In fact, we have a vegetarian/vegan bar at one of our dining units.
One thing that we're really proud about is that we actually are serving restaurant quality food. We have that many chefs on campus. According to the Princeton Review, it's actually deemed us number five in the country for university dining. So we're really proud about that as well.
NEIL LEWIS: There's a lot to do in the community centers and a lot of resources available. The three main ones on campus are Robert Purcell Community Center, Appel Commons, and the Carol Tatkon Center.
Appel has a gym with the treadmills and free weights, all the things you would get at your regular gym at home.
The Carol Tatkon Center, there's study lounges in there. There's a writing workshop. That helps a lot of first-year students with the writing seminar requirements. They'll actually pre-grade and critique your paper for you and tell you what you need to fix before you need to turn it in to your professor, which is really helpful.
There's just so many things that are helpful in these centers.
BONNIE FRAZIER: I'm a policy analyst and management major and minoring in nutritional sciences. Bonnie Frazier, College of Human Ecology. I'm class of 2012.
So the Carol Tatkon Center is really the heart of the first year experience. We're located on North Campus in Balch Hall. We offer all kinds of different services-- academically, culturally, socially. We are completely run by upperclassmen student staff.
And I think that's really important to first-year students because they see us as mentors. We have taken the first year classes. We've lived on North Campus. We're involved already. So our motto is, actually, "Ask me anything."
And students come in with crazy questions, anything from how do I drop a class? How do I add a class? How do I use the TCAT bus system? Where can I buy the warmest winter coat possible?
So I think it's really important that we have such a strong student staff and we're all very diverse, different majors. We're involved in different things on campus.
Everyone is welcome to come in, grab a cup of coffee. It's definitely a great place to study, a great place to come with friends and just meet people.
NEIL LEWIS: The goal of the faculty residence program, from my understanding, is to sort of, I guess, humanize the faculty.
The faculty in residence are, generally, professors or other faculty members, researchers on campus. Them living here sort of gives the student a different perspective of faculty members.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: For many students, the experience of a faculty member is someone who comes into a classroom, is sort of a talking head. Maybe they'll interact with them in a an office hour, but otherwise, this is just some very inaccessible person. And what this allows is for the student to come in and chat, sit in a living room or in a kitchen, or in that kind of context.
JEFF COWIE: The West Campus house systems are for sophomores and above and transfers. This is a natural extension, I think, of the first-year experience. They're designed to work together.
And the house system basically says we're going to take you seriously as a student and as an intellectual, as a thinking person, and we're going to bring some of the great scientists, and we're going to bring some of the great humanities people, and some of the great political leaders, some of the great popular culture figures here, and expect you to interact with them as a serious person.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: So I'm a faculty in residence, although I prefer the title faculty/family in residence because I'm here with my wife and kids. We've made a poster with our pictures on it. And we put our names on it. So we put Dr. T, Mrs. T, [INAUDIBLE]. And we noticed immediately that from day one, when people would see us, they would say, "Hi, Dr. T" or "Hi, Mrs. T."
And this happens to me on campus 10 times a day. I'm walking from one class to another or I'm going to a meeting and someone will shout out, "Hey, Dr. T." And I'll look at them and sometimes I won't even recognize them because not enough time will have passed for me to recognize who they are. And I think that's a good thing.
And I think that even though one might feel that that is a very small thing, there is something about the fact that they recognize someone, as you said earlier, outside of the classroom context, because the reason of this kind of program is to promote interaction outside of the classroom and to humanize faculty, as it were.
JEFF COWIE: I'm the house professor dean at Keeton House. My job is basically to bring together residential and intellectual life. The idea of blending residential and intellectual life is the idea that your education doesn't stop at 4:30 when classes are over. The idea is to practice the life of the mind in a casual way, in an informal way.
So you might dine with faculty. You might come over to my house and meet some of the leading thinkers of the day. But there's no test, there's no quizzes, there's no papers due. This is a way to be an engaged citizen of the world, right here at Keeton House.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: One young lady knocked on our door last week-- or was it two weeks ago-- and said, "Is there a study break?" And I said, "No, but do you want to come in any way?" And she said, "Sure." And she came in and she sat at our kitchen table and talked to my wife and me for about half an hour, Jasmine? For about half an hour. So to me, that's very valuable.
And so my thinking is this, make it such that the student feels that they can approach us-- whether they approach us or not is not really the issue, it's that they feel that they can because they may choose not to. And you know, they're adults, as we are fond of reminding them.
JEFF COWIE: I think that models a sort of richness of social and intellectual life that can continue throughout a student's life well beyond Cornell. But that's really what this place is about-- is about trying to break down some of the formal barriers between faculty and students and to bring us all together and realize we're all in this enterprise as one.
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What's it like to live on campus as a new first-year or transfer student? "Living at Cornell" is an introduction to the University's living-learning communities, including residence halls and houses, dining rooms, community centers, and the Carol Tatkon Center. Through interviews with students, faculty, and residential staff members, and footage of events and opportunities, new students can experience a taste of life on campus outside the classroom.