Students take a common afternoon

Cornell College students, faculty, and staff are piloting Common Afternoons for 2021. This is a part of Cornell’s Ingenuity curriculum that creates a space where everyone on campus can participate in activities together as one college community. 

The Common Afternoon on Oct. 20 focused on career-building and was full of panel discussions on employment and graduate school, resources and wellness activities, a few edible treats, and featured a keynote speaker.

David Gould, Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Iowa, and his special guest, Kevin ‘BF’ Burt, International Blues Challenge champion, came to campus to speak to students about finding your purpose in life with the end in mind and experimentation along the way. Throughout the afternoon students got a taste of what professional development might look like if they attended an industry conference later in life, and how they can make the most of such experiences to embrace lifelong learning.

Burt kicked off the presentation about how to design your own path with the inspiring musical message “I Ain’t Got No Problem With It,” reminding the audience that they own their own perception of life around them. Gould shared perspectives from across history and his personal interactions of gathering stories of people who chose to pursue their passions on their own terms, despite adversity and societal expectations, and embracing opportunity. He noted that the stories that we tell about ourselves become the infrastructure that our life is built upon, and once that infrastructure is built, it’s hard to break away from it. By designing our own lives, and how we respond to any external events, we have the power to shape that story if we intentionally think about what we’re building.

Gould also observed that we’re living in an increasingly interdisciplinary world. The wide array of skills and subjects that the audience is exploring now as students of the liberal arts, and even for the next decade or more, may not be things that they use directly in everyday life. However, we all draw from those experiences, become problem solvers, and frame our stories, so why not make the space in your design to explore all of your passions?

Student approach the stage to ask the speaker questionsStudents were invited to enter into discussion and one student questioned, “How do you reconcile the expectations and pressures from family and society to succeed with having agency over your own future?” The response was that we’re all on a path of discovery, and if you become remarkable and do something meaningful for others you might not become rich, but you will be able to support yourself and have a rich life.

After the talk, students were encouraged to practice another life skill, introducing themselves to Gould and Burt and taking the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.

This was the second Common Afternoon for the campus community. On Sept. 22, the activities focused on programming around well-being and Cornell’s Well-Being Network.