'I've gained a wide array of quantitative skills that I'll use to solve climate issues'

Sophia Openshaw

Environment & Sustainability Studies
Hong Kong

What was your favorite class and why?

Within my major, I have enjoyed all of Dr. Evan Cooch’s classes on modeling stochastic systems for population/species management. Even though this is not the field I hope to go into, the

person on side of mountain

classes gave me the skills to approach environmental and climate problems with a quantitative, problem-solving mindset. This solution-oriented perspective has stuck with me throughout my time at Cornell and continues to inform every piece of work I do. Outside of my major, Dr. Christine Bacareza Balance’s class, U.S. Cultures of War and Empire, thoroughly resonated with me. As someone of Filipino descent who grew up in Hong Kong, learning about the effects of American colonialism in the regions of the world I call home has greatly informed my understanding of what it means to be Filipino and Asian in America today. Being able to take advantage of Cornell’s expertise in Asian and Southeast Asian studies has been an academic highlight of my four years here. Aside from Southeast Asian social science classes, I have also tremendously enjoyed taking Tagalog language classes with Tita Thess.

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you?

The Cornell Rock Climbing community and Lindseth Climbing Center have hugely shaped my time here. I joined the climbing club (CRCC) in my freshman year and have worked at the climbing wall since my sophomore year. Through my involvement with this sport and community, I not only met most of my friends, but I also learned skills that I continue to implement in other aspects of my life. Climbing has made me a better problem solver, a more informed risk-taker and more resilient in the face of adversity. During the early COVID years, Lindseth was vital for my mental health as it essentially was my community watering hole and was where I would go for most of my social interaction.

person in rock climbing equipment

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

In the last two years in particular, I have gained a wide array of quantitative skills that I feel confident in using to solve climate issues. I have taken classes in R, GIS and Python, which I have already been able to use in my senior thesis. In addition, developing my toolbox in this area has helped me to approach environmental problems with a clear, rational mind and not to get overwhelmed by them. In a world where climate change (rightly) seems so imminent and media companies profit from selling us news that makes us feel pessimistic and overwhelmed, I cannot overemphasize how important these skills have been to me.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

Sleep more and get outside! You don’t just live in Cornell, you live in Ithaca. There is so much beautiful nature Ithaca has to offer, which is easy to forget when the semester workload increases. As Cornell students, we have historically benefitted so much from being in Ithaca and continue to do so. Learn more about the town-gown relationship and find a way to give back to the greater Ithaca community, in any way you find meaningful.


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		Sophia Openshaw