The Big Red Bear welcomes the Class of 2024 on Libe Slope.

Cornell welcomes its ‘flexible’ Class of ’24

When fall semester instruction begins online and in person Sept. 2, the 3,296 members of Cornell’s Class of 2024 – the first to start their college journeys in the coronavirus era – just might be the most nimble group in the university’s history.

“Coronavirus is a challenge, and this incoming Class of 2024 reminds us that Cornell students embody ingenuity and fortitude,” said Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment. “This talented entering class, my first, has been flexible and understanding in every way, and these students are not going to let anything hold them back.”

Although their connection to Cornell in the spring started virtually, with Cornell Days online, incoming first-year and transfer students are now starting to move into campus residence halls.

Among the talented and versatile class members is a magician who performs at hospitals and orphanages and is one of the youngest canine handlers at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. One classmate is a national chess champion, while several others are Future Farmers of America officers and county dairy princesses from all over New York state.

There’s a competitive golfer from China who became a finalist in a 2018 Asian International Children’s Film Festival, and a woman from Zambia who dreams of the heavens as an aspiring astrophysicist.

Environmental stewardship is important to this class, which features members who: conducted research on salinity in the Chesapeake Bay; examined algae as an ecofriendly alternative to corn ethanol; created pollinator gardens along the banks of the Erie Canal; and studied the environmental effects of commercial fishing off Sitka Sound in Alaska.

Months after the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, one member of the incoming class led 5,000 other students at a gun control march in Washington. His effort assured him a slot in posterity, as he appeared on the mural-based cover of Time magazine in November 2018, headlined “Guns in America.”

Members of the Class of 2024 hail from 48 states plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico, and from 48 nations across the globe.

In this new class, 54.2% are women, 51.7% identify as students of color, 26.9% are underrepresented minority students and 15.5% are the first ones in their family to attend college.

Joining the freshmen as new arrivals are 683 transfer students. Of the transfers, 48.9% are women, 42.6% are students of color, 17.4% are underrepresented minority students and 18.9% are first-generation.

“The Class of 2024 is intentionally distinct and diverse, with a collective range of aptitude, awareness, experience and grit that has me and my colleagues in awe. This newest group entering Cornell already knows it will be a year of challenges,” said Shawn Felton, the university’s senior director of undergraduate admissions. “And we will soon see that the Class of 2024 continues the great tradition of Cornell students being self-directed and infinitely adaptable.”

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Abby Butler