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How a Degree in Environmental Science and Three Years in Banking Led Ashlee Cherry to Become the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for Cornell’s Department of Communication

Like construction-filled College Avenue, Ashlee Cherry is proof that the road to success is often potholed and unpredictable. Before arriving at Cornell, Cherry grew up in the two-stoplight farm town of Medina, New York. She attended Genesee Community College before transferring to SUNY Brockport and earning her Bachelor of Science with a focus in Terrestrial Plant Ecology.

When she realized that it might be hard to find a job in environmental fields, Cherry went into banking. Thrown into the cutthroat world of sales, Cherry found the job quite the opposite of her previous slow, country lifestyle and far from her childhood dreams of helping people and promoting diversity and inclusion. “In banking,” Cherry admits, “you don’t really have any autonomy.” 

A few years later, however, her horizons changed when her girlfriend, now wife, got a position at Cornell. They packed up and moved from the Rochester/Buffalo area. Cherry shifted to remote banking, while in the back of her mind crept a thought, “what if Cornell?” This musing became a reality when Cherry got a job in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Plant Sciences administration, finally working in an environment where her science degree helped. In July 2022, she accepted the position of Undergraduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Communication. 

Now, six months into the position, Cherry is grateful for the twisted, bumpy road that led her to 451 Mann Library Building. As coordinator, Cherry combines her creativity and data organization skills with her passion for diversity and inclusion and helping others. She is the point-of-contact for the department’s 270 undergraduates. She has already streamlined several complicated department processes to make life easier for faculty, students, and staff.

Bringing an outside perspective to the heart of communication, Cherry is learning how much the department has to offer. Her priority is to foster the department’s relationship with centralized parts of Cornell, showing off all it has to offer. Cherry’s advice to the dozens of undergrads she interacts with weekly is to find something you love and to take a leap of faith, whether that is switching majors, changing jobs, or moving to Ithaca, New York. She deeply enjoys her new job, which is primarily about “helping students through their whole journey, freshman year to senior year.” 

“When I first looked at the job description, something about that hit me.” Now, months into the role, she says, “I think I found my place.” With a smile, she exclaims, “I love this job.”

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