As residence halls opened, activity bloomed at Willard Straight Hall, the student union building, on Ho Plaza.

Moving in: Class of ’26 students bring life to fall semester

Nicholas Yang ’26 was among the first students to move into Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall, the new residence hall named to honor the late Supreme Court justice. 

“Her name on this building shows the legacy that is Cornell,” said Yang, of Warren, New Jersey, who hopes to major in economics. “She had such a huge impact on history and that’s why living here is so meaningful. It shows that I have the potential – it shows that all Cornell students – have the potential to make an impact.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall is one of the final three buildings in the North Campus Residential Expansion to open to students – alongside Hu Shih and Barbara McClintock halls. Beginning Aug. 15 at 8 a.m., cars filled with students and their families – and suitcases, blankets, desk lamps and hangers – started rolling onto campus parking lots. Resident advisers handed these newest Cornellians the keys to their rooms – and their futures.

Families help set up and decorate the new rooms for students.

Darius Cureton, residence hall area coordinator for the Shih-McClintock-Ginsburg complex, pointed out the welcome signs at each Ginsburg Hall entrance. They said: “You can’t spell ‘truth’ without Ruth.”

Other new North Campus residents included Jeffrey Johnson ’26, an atmospheric sciences major from Wilmington, Delaware, who is looking forward to absorbing as much climate and meteorology as possible over the next four years; and Madison Schaaff ’26, an astronomy and physical sciences major from the Hudson Valley, who looked forward to meeting new friends in Hu Shih residence hall and who now lives close to Cornell’s Fuertes Observatory, which opens to the public every Friday night.

The family of Kayla Franklin ’26, an animal science major from Baltimore, helped her move into Ujamaa Residential College, a residence hall which celebrates Black heritage, now in its 50th year. Franklin said she is looking forward to her student career at larger place like Cornell, after attending a smaller high school.

Sometimes life is like a box of chocolates – particularly chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, delivered by a parent to McClintock Hall staff.

When McClintock Hall resident advisers Aby Pachon ’24 and Alana Balisi ’24 went to post a photo of the chocolate on the official McClintock Hall Instagram account, they learned that other residents had already created an account. Thus, they made their own official account that prompted a first post: “Will the real Barbara McClintock Hall please stand up?”

As students settled into residence halls, the Cornell Big Red Marching Band roused the growing crowd at the very busy Big Red Welcome Fest on Ho Plaza, playing covers of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” Bastille’s “Pompeii” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” All the band members encouraged new students to try out.

Marching band trombonists Corey Neil ’23 and Devin Smedina ’21, smiling between songs, told everyone within range that trombone was the best instrument.

Students and their parents milled about the Welcome Fest, learning about an array of Cornelliana, such a Campus Activities, the Einhorn Center and Alumni Affairs.

New Cornell students unloaded cars quickly and efficiently – bringing posters, lamps and blankets – on the first of three residence hall move-in days.

Nicole Svonavec, director of student and young alumni programs, handed out Post-It Notes and touted the upcoming 2026 Class Photo being taken on Aug. 26. She suggested that two new students – Mohammad Hassan ’26 and Moezulhaq Amini ’26 – participate in the class photo.

It turns out that Hassan and Amini had arrived in the United States two days earlier from their home 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan. Shawn Felton, executive director of undergraduate admissions, had picked several Afghan students up from the Syracuse Hancock International Airport Aug. 13.

Amini, majoring in engineering, dreams of opening a research center to conduct industry and transportation research, while Hassan, a global and public health sciences major, wants to educate his homeland on women’s reproductive health and attend medical school.

Both students said they enjoyed Cornell’s welcoming atmosphere. In Afghanistan, Hassan said, most universities are housed in a single building. “I watched Cornell on YouTube, but when I entered the university, I couldn’t believe [how] huge it was,” he said. “I was waiting to see the clocktower.

“Finally,” Hassan said, “I saw it for the first time.”