Rosenfeld creates change on campus

Martin Rosenfeld ’20 is studying biochemistry and molecular biology, and his goal is to become a neurosurgeon.

Photo of Martin Rosenfeld '20
Martin Rosenfeld ’20

The sophomore calls himself a “military child” and has lived in many places throughout his life but has spent a majority of his life in Europe.

Rosenfeld is one of many first-generation students to take part in the Rise Up Program on the Hilltop. The program, which helps first-gen students through programming, advice, and relationship building, was created in 2014 by Professor Suzette Astley and Senior Director of Alumni Engagement and Leadership Annual Giving RJ Holmes-Leopold.  

The sophomore says incoming first-gen students shouldn’t hesitate to get involved in campus life. He never thought he’d be doing some of the things he’s doing now.

“I’ve run for office, and I am now on the executive board for Student Senate, charged with representing the needs and wants of my constituents,” he said. “I’ve also started my own organization that focuses on supporting pre-health professional students on campus. I have actively made an impact on my campus and affected change in the lives of other students at Cornell. All of these things I did not think possible for me, a first-gen student who had no idea how to navigate college, to achieve. Yet, through hard work, perseverance, and support from the Rise Up program, what I have achieved has gone above and beyond my expectations.”

  • What does it mean to you to be involved in Rise Up and to be a first-gen student?

First-generation students are some of the most inspirational students I have ever encountered. These are people who have said “I’m going to be different than the rest of my family. It doesn’t matter the disadvantages and hardships I will face. I will be the first, and I will make a path for anyone who wishes to follow after me.”

These are students who have taken charge of their own lives and use the opportunities presented to them to pursue a higher education. However, despite their determination, it is a sad fact that most first-generation college students lack the necessary knowledge and resources to navigate a successful college career. Not only that, but their family members often don’t understand the hardships that college students face, and thus are unequipped to help them. This is why programs like Rise Up are important. Rise Up provides knowledge, resources, and support for first-generation students where they otherwise would have none. It acts as a means by which these students can actualize and achieve the goals they have set for themselves. As a first-generation student, I can say that my college experience would not have been as successful or enjoyable without the support of Rise Up.

  • What are your suggestions for other new, first-gen students as they come to campus? What are some of the things you think they should take advantage of while they are here?

Don’t be afraid to get involved with campus life. I have found that what makes your college experience enjoyable is not what classes you take, but who you choose to spend your college years with. Getting involved in clubs and organizations provides the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people, and allows you to make the most of time on campus. College is a time for you to learn and grow as a person, but it’s hard to do that if you never leave your room.

  • As you get closer to graduation and reflect on your time at Cornell, what memories and thoughts will you take with you after you leave?

I will always remember the lessons I learned at Cornell, both inside and outside of the classroom. Additionally, I will always cherish the relationships I fostered during my time on campus.