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Energy, Excitement as New Students Join CALS

Ag Quad

If the Ag Quad feels busier than ever this year, you’re not mistaken.

As classes kick off this week, more undergraduate students than ever before are filling the classrooms across CALS. The 3,693 undergraduates, including Dyson students, are the largest collection of students the college has ever had.

CALS students are a unique blend of academic standouts, group leaders and those passionate about making a difference in the world. And this year’s newest students are no exception.

The CALS class of 2021 includes a Science Olympiad state champion, a published novelist and a freshman who at age 14 became the youngest licensed falconer in New Jersey. One freshman is a three-time national title holder in parliamentary procedure debate. Many have already interned at high-profile companies, and several have started businesses of their own.  

Of the 608 freshmen this year, 17 are high school valedictorians, with many more demonstrating proven leadership skills. Twenty-nine served as class or student council president of their high school, while 206 captained a varsity sport and another 20 led a student publication as editor in chief. More than 200 served as a club president at their school, and 85 founded a new club. The current and former presidents of the New York FFA, an intracurricular organization for students interested in agriculture and leadership, are part of the incoming class.

During her speech to first-year students at orientation weekend, Dean Kathryn J. Boor said, “You’ve arrived at Cornell with your own unique interests, experiences and goals, and you will soon find your place here and develop a life-long network of colleagues, mentors and friends.” She added, “I have every confidence that you will find in CALS a supportive community of people who will encourage you to fulfill your dreams and help you to gain the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to build successful careers and effect meaningful change.”

Across Cornell, the freshman class is the most diverse in the university’s history, continuing a trend of several years. Of the incoming class at CALS, more than 20 percent are first-generation students. Nearly half of the CALS class self-identify as students of color.

Freshmen aren’t the only new student faces on campus. This year, 262 students transferred to CALS. Of those students, 6 are military veterans, and 14 served as presidents of student organizations.

“You are all about to embark on a life-changing changing journey of exploration and discovery,” Boor told the transfer students at orientation. “Whatever your talents and aspirations, you will find many opportunities to make a difference here.”

Susan Kelley contributed to this report. Feature image: students walk across the Ag Quad on the first day of classes. Photo by Matt Hayes.