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The College of Arts Sciences

Rabindra Willford: 'Approach your professors early and often.'

April 13, 2017

Rabindra Willford


Ithaca, NY

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I took a seminar in my junior year called Lessons in the Anthropocene, which was being offered through the Society for the Humanities. Prof. Craig Campbell, visiting from the University of Texas at Austin, taught the course and introduced me to new ideas about humanity, time, art and nature. Furthermore, the course was relaxing and fun — not at all what I expected from a college course. This was definitely a turning point as I became more enthusiastic about anthropology and its relevance to the dynamics of today and the future.

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

I worked on a Seneca Haudenosaunee archaeological site in upstate New York for two summers under the direction of Prof. Kurt Jordan, and I continued working on the project in the lab throughout my time at Cornell. I also participated in the Nilgiris Field Learning Center study abroad program in South India in which I conducted survey-based and ethnographic research on land use in a local tribal community, in collaboration with an NGO called the Keystone Foundation. I continued my own research project in the Nilgiris hills, conducting interviews and observations on history, economy and land among local peoples. I was able to write a senior honors thesis based on this research.

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

My interests in social sciences became more focused during my time at Cornell. The opportunities I had to work with professors and go abroad helped inform these interests and strengthen my focus on anthropology. I also became friends with several environmental science and sustainability majors, and took some courses that dealt with ecological relationships, land and climate change. As a result, I have become far more interested and invested in these issues as we face growing threats today.

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

Approach your professors early and often. They are resources of immense knowledge and are eager to help. The sooner you build this relationship, the better connected you will be with internship or project opportunities and you will have a clearer idea of your potential career path(s).