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A Student Perspective

Sabrina Daley is an Environment and Sustainability major with a minor in marine biology. She will be graduating in May 2020, and, like the rest of Cornell students and the students of many universities across the country, is finishing the spring semester by taking her classes virtually, from home in Northern Virginia. We asked Sabrina about the ranking that Cornell has been receiving from the Sierra Club as one of the top “Cool Schools” in the country in recent years. Did Cornell deserve it? This is the answer she gave:

Sabrina and whale shark

“People often ask “Why Cornell?” Was it the Ivy League prestige, the expansive rural campus, or the promise of freezing winters that drew me to Ithaca? The reality is something much simpler, a love story. I fell in love, with the College of Agriculture and Life Science (CALS). CALS is ranked one of the best programs in the world for environmental science and the uniqueness of the environmental science and sustainability major (ESS) (now Environment and Sustainability) gave me the opportunity to pursue environmentalism of my own design the moment I stepped on campus as a freshman. As a CALS student I have had the opportunity to design my own concentration and tailor my education to my specific areas of interest far beyond what any other university could have offered me.

In my four-year career as an ESS student I have been consistently surrounded by a glowing passion for environmentalism and sustainability from both my professors and classmates. I have been taught by world class faculty and advisors who are leaders in their fields and spend every class striving to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders. They consistently encourage us to stay hopeful in the face of daunting environmental threats and to find the strength within ourselves to take the road less traveled and pursue careers that protect the planet for the greater good.

I have been encouraged to pursue academic experiences beyond the bounds of Cornell’s campus. I spent a semester abroad in Australia gaining field experience in the rainforests of Northern Queensland and remote islands on the Great Barrier Reef before heading off on my own independent study project to study whale sharks in coastal Western Australia. Since returning to campus I have maintained my connections abroad and made new ones pursuing a honors thesis project investigating whale shark marine protected area use and aggregation patterns surrounding island archipelagos in the Indo-Pacficic in partnership with NGOs in both Australia and the Philippines. All while being supported and encouraged by the faculty and staff of CALS and ESS.

As my time as a Cornell student comes to a close I want to take this Earth Day to celebrate and reflect on the academic success I have found as part of the CALS community. My many wonderful experiences are a result of the support and passion of my professors and fellow students who have pushed me to learn and improve everyday. As I take my next step in life I will take with me the important lessons and connections I have made in CALS with me into the future and I look forward to seeing the amazing things I know my classmates will accomplish in their lives. To celebrate this earth day I’d like to extend special thanks to my amazing thesis advisor Dr. Stephen Morreale for all his support and encouragement throughout my thesis process as well as Dr. Evan Cooch whose classes have fundamentally changed me as a conservationist for the better. Happy Earth Day Everyone!


Sabrina Daley ‘20