As a student in Global Development, Jessica Snyder ’20 explored lessons in the development sector through engaged classrooms — those with four walls and on the global stage. From community-based engagement in rural India to advocacy on campus for social justice reform, Jessica is using her International Agriculture and Rural Development (IARD) major to chart new possibilities for her career in international development.
What was your favorite class or engagement project and why?
One of the great things about Global Development is the flexible nature of its programs. IARD really allowed me to pursue many passions and ideas. One can dabble in all aspects of development or become an expert in the development aspect that most impassions them. This multidisciplinary quality allowed me to really enjoy myself and pursue my interests while feeling like a better-rounded student. My favorite IARD class that best emphasizes this aspect of the major was IARD 6020: International Agriculture in Developing Nations. Pairing the class with a trip abroad in India brought to life many concepts taught in the classroom, greatly enriching the experience in a way unattainable from plush auditorium seats.
My experience with IARD 6020 in India truly illuminated the intricacies behind the sociological concepts of gratitude, interaction, and equality. The trip allowed us to witness intangible beauties alongside steep levels of inequality. Experiencing these lessons directly was deeply impactful and reaffirming of my desire to pursue a career path in global development. This class opened my eyes in a way that transcended the four walls of the classroom.
Another noteworthy class I took at Cornell was GOVT 3401: Refugees and the Politics of Vulnerability: Intersections of Feminist Theory and Practice. Professor Jane Juffer gave her students space to put theory into practice when the class organized and launched the currently ongoing Free Ingrid campaign — a movement to help an El Salvadoran LGBTQ+ woman who has been held by ICE with no due process for approximately two years. Through weekly videocalls with Ingrid, the class developed a strong rapport with this brave woman.
Wishing to help, we thrust ourselves into an awareness campaign on her behalf. One of the campaign’s features involved creating a website to illuminate many of the injustices immigrants like Ingrid experience in immigration detention centers. Despite having no experience in website creation or design, I took on the role of web design manager. We all cared deeply about the cause, yet we struggled to achieve what we set out to do. While Ingrid is not yet free, the campaign continues to gain traction and strength. It was exhilarating being part of a class of incredibly motivated students all struggling together for a cause that holds real world impact. This class genuinely gave me and many others a sense of meaning and purpose that is difficult to find in many classes.
Learning on the global stage
What is your favorite memory from your time in the IARD major?
It is hard to epitomize my time in IARD with a single memory. So many little memories have built together to create a sense of exceptionality about my experience in Global Development. While I have had the great privilege of extensive travel as part of the program, my memories are all the sweeter because of the people in them. Something you really learn as an IARD major is to value connection. Connecting with peers, mentors, and the people actually locally involved in development.
A striking memory from this time took place during my trip to India with IARD 6020. Our group was touring the Garden of Hope in Tamil Nadu. Behind the supervisor stood a group of strong and kind looking older women who farmed the garden. While none of them spoke English, Professor Pilar Parra and I began communicating with one of these kind women farmers through gestures and facial expressions. Despite our language barrier, we still managed to find a way to connect with her, stemming from our mutual desire to understand. Delighted with our effort to try and understand her, she invited us to dinner. Sadly, we were unable to attend, but I will never forget how it felt to know that despite the language, custom, and cultural barrier, I had truly connected with someone.
While I will treasure that memory for years, my mind often primarily wanders to memories of the simple, everyday things — studying in the library with friends; exploring Ithaca’s gorges with peers; feeling cared about by my mentors and IARD faculty. These may almost seem generic in nature; however, IARD attracts a certain type of student and professor: good natured, altruistic, eager to learn and share. Truly, I could go on and on about the simply, deeply good human beings that I have met within IARD. People build each other up and believe in one another. I am honored to have had the privilege of making so many wonderful memories with these exquisitely caring people; they are the reason I treasure my IARD memories so deeply.
What is the greatest lesson from your major that you are taking with you into your next chapter after graduation?
Do not limit yourself. I learned so many things throughout my time as an IARD undergrad. However, at this point in my life, not limiting myself really stands out. I went into the major because I was convinced there was only one route in life for me. IARD opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that are actually out there for those who wish to work in international development. I came to understand that I do not need to limit myself to going about development in one particular way. A person’s potential really is limitless with the right tools and support. I received much of that from IARD, and it helped empower me and widen my understanding of my own potential. It is a lesson I hope to never lose sight of and pass down to those I meet throughout the rest of my journey in this life.
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