A mission and a passport

Brittany Atchison ’10 is a woman with a mission, a passport, and Cornell support to take her where she needs to be.

Brittany Aitchison '10 taught English and volunteered in Honduras one spring break. (Photo by Brittany Aitchison)
Brittany Aitchison ’10 taught English and volunteered in Honduras one spring break. (Photo by Brittany Aitchison)

Atchison used her Berry Center internship to tackle world hunger and poverty. In 2007 Atchison went to Minneapolis to research and develop a social action template for college students. She worked with activists to set up meetings with members of Congress, arranged events and presented on behalf of the organization for local groups, and attended the national Bread for the World Conference in Washington, D.C.

“My life goal is to help the impoverished people of third-world countries have additional opportunities to succeed, and I strongly believe that this internship opportunity helped me transform my dreams into realities,” said Atchison, who also interned with the United Nations World Food Program in Bolivia, organized a spring break service project in Honduras, and used the block plan’s flexibility to pursue intensive Spanish and service work in Guatemala.

“When you see poverty on TV, it’s so different from when you see it firsthand,” she says.

Traveling around the world has long been possible at Cornell. At any given time, students can be soaking up the culture of Argentina or Mongolia, eyeing art in Rome, or stalking wildlife in the Bahamas.

But the introduction of more career-targeted programs, with full-time directors digging for the best internship matches, means more students than ever are venturing into carefully chosen corners of the world, often, hopefully, with alumni underwriting some of the costs.

The results are eye-opening, life altering, said Associate Dean Gayle Luck, who heads the increasingly swamped Office of International and Off-Campus Studies.

To illustrate, after recent trips to Namibia and another to Mongolia, she said, “of the students who went, more than half made a conscious effort to choose careers in which they would be a greater service to others.”

Service to others is a cornerstone of Cornell’s mission. And it is that compassion and 30 years in the medical field that inspired Larry Dorr ’63 to create the Dimensions program.

He said his patients are most interested in “how much I was concerned about them, and how much I was really caring that they were getting exactly what they wanted. And I realized that we needed to do more of that in educating anybody going into health care fields. And so Dimensions is focusing on the art of being a caretaker of people, rather than just being a scientist who knows something about the body and diseases,” Dorr said.

Those opportunities, coupled with campaign scholarship contributions, are luring extraordinary students, in record numbers, to Cornell.

Raised by a mom who was determined her daughter get a college education, Student Senate president and junior Taylor Koch’s financial aid is supplemented by two work-study positions on campus—Civic Engagement and New Student Orientation. Off campus, Koch teaches dance classes at a local studio.

“I feel like I am investing in an education that is highly valued. This education would not be possible without the generous donations of alumni to create scholarships,” said Koch.

As Senate president, she’s been the liaison between college officials and the students, a young audience that may not yet grasp that a fundraising campaign was in its midst, but are already reaping the bounty of the harvest.

And there’s more to come.