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Rodriguez, Goh, Liu

Senior Profiles

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The Department of Government is excited to showcase three of our majors who will be graduating this year.  Their varied experiences reveal a glimpse into the possibilities for those joining the department.  Whether you are considering Government as a major or are already part of our approximately 275 undergraduates, these stories are inspiring.

Claire Liu

What is the context of your coming to Cornell?

I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. Unlike both of my older siblings, I decided it could perhaps be fun to leave the West Coast and experience a different region of the US for college. And as someone who loves to be outside, I was drawn to the natural beauty of Cornell's campus and the Finger Lakes region during my college visits.

What area of Political Science are you studying?

Within the Government major, I focus mostly on American government and politics. I am very interested in Political Communication, although that is not officially a track within our department.

Who have been your influential professors and why?

Professor Peter Enns and Professor Adam Levine have been very influential professors during my time at Cornell. I met both of them at some point my sophomore year, have conducted fascinating research with both of them, and continue to seek their very helpful advice on a consistent basis. They have always been great sources of support and wisdom. Although I have only taken one course with Professor Jamila Michener thus far, her teaching has impacted my college experience. She is sharp, witty, an incredibly powerful speaker, and a true advocate for the causes she cares about.

Are you writing an Honor’s Thesis and what are you writing about?

I am writing an Honors Thesis, chaired by Professor Enns, through the College Scholar Program. In addition to Government, I'm majoring in an independent concentration focused on persuasive media and political influence. As of now, I am looking to analyze conceptions and definitions of "fake news" across academia, social media corporations, and the general American public. How do these conceptions differ across groups? Within the general American public, how is "fake news" conceptualized across partisan lines? What obstacles might these differences in conceptions of "fake news" create for researchers trying to combat mass misinformation?

How has being a Government major helped you grow personally and professionally?

Within the first few weeks of my freshman year, the Government department already began to really stand out. My courses in the Government department are the ones that have exposed me most to very crucial, disturbing lessons that have truly shaken the way I perceive the world, country, and campus around me. My professors in the Government department are the ones who have best taught me how to synthesize information and solve problems around me in a thoughtful and thorough way. Every Government graduate student TA I've had the pleasure of learning from has been the best kind of academic support system I could ever ask for. The undergraduate students I meet in my Government classes are the ones who challenge me and wow me and make me hopeful!

The greatest skills that the Government major has given me are: (1) the realization that big problems don't usually have simple solutions and (2) the determination to try and make things better despite knowing it might be a difficult and messy process.

What kinds of opportunities outside of Cornell have you pursued, and how has being a Government major helped you land the opportunity and be successful during it?

The summer after my sophomore year, I received the Andrew Kohut Fellowship with the Roper Center For Public Opinion. This is when I met Professor Enns, who advised my summer research project on fake news, the 2016 election, and corporate accountability. This was the first time I really ever worked with public opinion data (and numbers in general), and I felt very lucky to be able to learn from an expert in quantitative research methods.

One really wonderful opportunity I had was the chance to do an exchange in Paris last spring. I attended a university called Sciences Po, and lived with a very creative, hilarious, and loving host family in the 8th arrondissement. I was able to continue studying some of the topics I had explored at Cornell (public opinion, influence, political polls), but in a very novel classroom setting, where I was taught by French instructors, and spoke and wrote in my non-native language. At night, I'd sit around the dinner table with my host-parents and sister and talk for hours on end, occasionally discussing some really big topics. It occurred to me just how challenging it was to not only effectively communicate the full complexity of my thoughts in a different language, but also try to write and present using an entirely different "méthodologie." I think the Government major at Cornell prepared me in a lot of way for these few months, by giving me a lot of practice putting myself out there in a classroom setting, defending my ideas, being willing to make mistakes, taking feedback, and most importantly, embracing discomfort.

What do you plan to do after you graduate?

I am very openminded about options post-Cornell. The ethics and policy side of technology and social media intrigues me. So does graduate school! I think I'd like to stay on the East Coast for at least a few more years.

Kevin Goh

What is the context of your coming to Cornell?

I was very fortunate to be coming here with sponsorship from the Singaporean government, specifically from the Singapore Economic Development Board. I came to Cornell extremely drawn by the sheer number of resources it provided for students, the broad range of possible majors, and the extensive number of clubs that operated right here on campus. As someone who’s always keenly pursued his passions, Cornell seemed every bit like a place that would allow me to stretch my comfort zones and pursue new interests. It has never disappointed me in this regard: in my time here I have participated in the Summer Session, the Cornell Abroad program, and been able to pursue my interests in three different majors, martial arts, poetry, photography, art, film, and more.

What area of Political Science are you studying?

I am studying Political Science with an emphasis on political philosophy, and the intersection of politics and ethics: where politics may have real, ethical implications, and how these have to be navigated. This past summer, for instance, with the kind and generous support of the Robert S. Hatfield Award from the Sage School of Philosophy, I wrote a research paper on the phenomenon of karoshi, or “death by overwork” in Japan: a product of a sociopolitical and moral culture exacerbated by institutional inertia.

Who have been your influential professors and why?

Professor Elizabeth Sanders has by far been the single most influential and inspiring professor I have met in Cornell. The care she takes in teaching her courses and looking after her students has convinced me beyond doubt that she cares for the intellectual development of her students, but also their physical and emotional well-being. Taking GOVT 4102: Governing Green Cities was certainly an engaging and memorable seminar experience (and I recommend it to everyone who has an interest in sustainability, even those who have no idea what that constitutes!), but most importantly my meeting her has helped keep me grounded in the realities of student life, as the hustle of Cornellian life can get one overly distracted by grades and resumes. It is impossible to understate the importance of slowing down and helping the ones around you, and Professor Sanders has unequivocally taught me that.

How has being a Government major helped you grow personally and professionally?

The Government major really shone through when I decided to become a triple major in Economics, Government, and Philosophy. On the one hand, Economics has allowed me to conduct quantitative analysis to real-world phenomena and Philosophy has imparted valuable knowledge in epistemology and critical thinking. On the other, the Government major has allowed me to identify and wrestle with difficult and intricately human questions such as where and why economics should matter – that is, it has given me the opportunity to contextualize and apply economic and philosophical skills to a range of important issues such as human rights, developmental priorities, and so on. Beyond that, it has allowed me to better interpret current affairs so that I can situate myself in a more informed manner in the modern environment, and left me more confident in expressing political but important views in a world that sometimes avoids discussion and debate for the sake of political correctness.

Taking the Government major has also pushed me to pursue other opportunities, such as when I studied abroad in sophomore year at the London School of Economics. There, I studied uniquely European politics and game theory, and the Government Department really provided me both with the inspiration and opportunity to step out of Cornell and create for myself an educational experience like no other.

What kinds of opportunities outside of Cornell have you pursued, and how has being a Government major helped you land the opportunity and be successful during it?

Being a Government major has helped me most in understanding the political workings of different organizations and allowed me to work within and among them.

In the summer of sophomore year, I had the opportunity to work with the Singapore Economic Development Board on a project exploring investment and development opportunities to further Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives. This involved proper communication and negotiation with firms developing key technology, and also meticulous analysis of case studies from other countries for adaptation to the local context. Understanding the geographical and political intricacies to each case study and the impetus for key firms to locate themselves in Singapore in the first place proved crucial to the success of the project.

This past year, my experience in the Government major certainly helped me conceptualize and interpret my research on karoshi to a large degree, but again proved invaluable in summer as I worked in Singapore to help found a new non-profit organization advocating mental health literacy and mental wellness. Instead of working with firms as before, now I was interacting with governmental bodies and public healthcare institutions in the setup of the organization. I hope to bring this experience forward, too, now that I am joining Cornell Minds Matter’s Mental Health Policy team in hopes of facilitating the development of mental health policy on campus.

What do you plan to do after you graduate?

After graduation, I will be working with the Singapore Economic Development Board. Eventually, I hope to pursue a PhD that studies the intersection of law, economics and ethics.

Vanessa Navarro Rodriguez

I transferred to Cornell from the University of Southern California after my freshman year. During my time at Cornell I have taken classes and received guidance from brilliant and inspiring faculty like Professor Michener, Professor Karim, Professor Livingston and Professor Margulies. I had originally been interested in International Relations but after taking the Politics of Public Policy with professor Michener I decided to focus on American politics. Professor Michener has been one of the many influential professors I have encountered in the department. I have worked as her research assistant for three years, I have taken two of her classes (the politics of public policy, and prisons, politics and public policy) and she’s advised one of my independent studies (on the racialization of rape laws in the United States). I feel really fortunate to have her as one of my mentors and as my major advisor.

Professor Michener has also helped me get opportunities outside of the department. After a summer of working for her researching civil legal aid I was hired at the Legal Services Corporation as the government relations and legislative affairs intern. Professor Michener also encouraged me to apply to the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute at Duke University. RBSI is an opportunity for underrepresented students who are considering pursuing a PhD in political science. Students take a graduate class on race and ethnic politics in America and a graduate class on quantitative methods. Students also have to work on an independent project and the best students are chosen to present at the annual American Political Science Association conference. I was fortunate to be chosen to present my research on sexual violence in armed conflict and peacekeepers at the conference in Boston this past semester. During my poster presentation professors from the department stopped by to learn about what I had researched, and this was just one of the many times the department has been supportive of my personal achievements.

I am now on my last semester at Cornell and I am working on an honor’s thesis under the guidance of professor Sabrina Karim. My project examines Sexual Exploitation and Abuse perpetrated by U.N. peacekeepers and in November I will be presenting preliminary work at Emerging Scholars, a conference at the University of Michigan. The classes at Cornell and the support from the department have led me to apply to graduate school for a PhD in political science and I hope to continue studying the politics of violence and sexual violence.