In a year defined in part by COVID-19, Cornell graduates charted their own course, showcasing creative ideas, perseverance, and a dedication to the broader community and to each other.


Creativity was key in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic, as members of the graduating class demonstrated with their resourcefulness and inventive thinking.

Designing innovative ways to safely socialize

While physical distancing is one of the key ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a group of students and recent alumni collaborated to make physical distancing more social for students on the Ithaca campus. With “Cornell: Safely Together,” an installation of log seats and freestanding seesaws, students were able to safely spend time together while enjoying the unique seating arrangements.

Colorful balloons anchored to messages of gratitude sit on the Arts Quad Friday, May 14.

A student-led initiative showered the Arts Quad with a colorful display of hundreds of fluttering balloons tied to inspiring messages as the spring semester concluded.

At the end of an unpredictable and unprecedented academic year, faculty, staff and students awoke to an outsized display of positivity on May 14, finding the Arts Quad filled with more than 500 balloons anchored to messages of gratitude from Cornellians to each other. Cornell Lifted students spent hours late into the night arranging the display as a pop-up surprise for the last day of classes.

The student-led initiative invites faculty, staff and students to submit messages of appreciation, with recipients encouraged to find and keep their balloon and message. The project, which takes place annually prior to final…

Painting by Frederick McDonald

By Karim-Aly Kassam

The tragedy of COVID-19, with its devastating loss of life and disruption to our food and social systems, will be a walk in the garden compared to the looming catastrophe of human induced climate change. As we tenuously begin to emerge out of this pandemic, our attention is returning to the shattering impact of climate change.

Farmers, fishers, gardeners, herders, hunters, orchardists and even tourism operators depend on seasonal variation for their livelihoods. They are not afraid of anticipated changes; they depend upon them. Seasonal changes in weather are necessary for the health of ecosystems and the…

A Cornell senior’s two-year-old rabbit, Finn, has become Internet famous as a symbol of hope and health amid the pandemic.

When Finn hopped into the life of Erin Scannell ’21 in February 2019, she found herself taking a lot of photos of the lovable Holland Lop bunny. With floppy ears, long whiskers and distinctive orange fur, Finn quickly captured the hearts of Scannell’s friends and classmates, too — inspiring Scannell to create the Big Red Bun Instagram account. Two years later, Finn’s account has surpassed 10,000 followers and has become a source for Cornellians worldwide to follow his adventures on campus and find messages in support of COVID-19 safety and mental health and well-being.

Cornell researchers are working to restore our planet’s natural resources — from the soil to the seas to the skies — and helping to ensure a sustainable future for years to come.

Cleaning our water to protect marine life

Pollution threatens our oceans, seas and waterways, as well as the many endangered species living there. Increasingly, plastic waste from homes and businesses ends up in water, and the commercial fishing industry contributes a significant amount from polymers in fishing gear.

Kevin Gill/Flickr/Creative Commons

By Karim-Aly Kassam

In the twenty-first century we need a concept anchored in the reality, history, culture, and ecology of North America. It is time to expel the idea of ‘race’ from our thinking. It has no relevance in the third millennium. The idea of ‘personhood’ offers hope for a just and sustainable future.

Race is a construct propagated by European settlers to colonize the Americas. It is an imported artifice, created to diminish the ‘personhood’ of others, an invention intended to justify an ideology of oppression. This historical legacy of sociocultural and ecological erasure, often leading to genocide, not…

Photo by Bernt Sønvisen / Flickr / Creative Commons

By Michael Fontaine

April Fool’s Day may be behind us, but this spring, we could all use a laugh — especially at work. In that spirit, here’s a little story:

A guy was driving down the freeway last week when his phone rang. When he answered he heard his wife’s voice frantically warning him: “John, oh my god! I just saw on the news: there’s a car going the wrong way on 280. It’s crazy! Please be careful!”

“A car going the wrong way on 280?” says John. “Hell, it’s not just one car. There’s hundreds of ‘em!”

This little…

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons/Dwayne Madden.

By Joseph W. McFadden, Associate Professor of Dairy Cattle Biology in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University

Humanity is faced with unprecedented challenges. These include a pandemic, economic volatility, poverty, war, climate change, and a growing human population; however, we have created a new problem that has abruptly influenced how we raise animals for food. The critical issue that has emerged in Canada is that hard butter refuses to soften.

You would think that this is just an amusing empirical observation and at most a minor inconvenience, but human curiosity has provoked the spread of misinformation about science…

Amanda Freund (center) with her sisters, who visited during her service in Zambia. Image provided.

This week marks 60 years since President John F. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps with a vision to foster cooperation and connections across cultures worldwide. Cornellians have played a major role in the organization’s success — from early work by founding staff member Richard Ottinger ’50 to the hundreds of Cornell alumni who’ve volunteered since its birth in 1961.

Amanda Freund ’06 and Janet Smith, M.S. ’19, took different paths to the Peace Corps, but can claim common ground in their experiences.

In 2010, Freund volunteered for a two-year position in Zambia, where she focused on food and agriculture — familiar terrain following her studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and her work on her family’s dairy farm in Connecticut. She discovered, however, that she still had a great deal to learn from the resource-strapped communities where she worked. …

Dadivank, a 9th-13th century monastery in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The incoming Biden administration must adopt a multi-pronged strategy to prevent the destruction of Armenian monuments.

By Lori Khatchadourian and Adam Smith

In late September, a brutal war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh — adding another tragic chapter to one of the longest-running conflicts in the world. Cities and villages were routinely shelled, killing scores of civilians, until last month when a ceasefire agreement brought the fighting to a halt. A period of violent devastation is over. But as the parties strive to achieve an elusive, lasting peace, the region’s irreplaceable cultural monuments…

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