Lydia Holley: 'As a math major, I value rationality, but there are certain things that rationality can never give you'

Lydia Holley


Canandaigua, NY

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

I've definitely learned more about perspective and how it is formed through our existence and through our vastly differing realities as individuals. I think that there are some issues that certain people will just never understand until they experience it. As a math major, I am obviously someone who values rationality in arguments to a certain extent. But I think that there are certain things that rationality can never give you. It's a strong tool, but not made for every situation in life.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

As I've emphasized to such a great extent so far, the most valuable part of liberal arts education is the broadening of perspectives. We all come to Cornell having different takes on reality, and this school offers courses and experiences and people that can teach you about how your reality is not the only reality. My liberal arts education provided me with the ability to read every single one of Toni Morrison's novels and to discuss them with the insanely intelligent people around me. I could have a discussion about my favorite book, "Tar Baby," in one hour, and then attend a talk about symplectic manifolds in the next.

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

Some of the most important experiences you will have here at Cornell will be the ones that you do not plan or anticipate. I would encourage them to embrace the breadth requirements — if you're never outside of your comfort zone, you'll never grow. If you fully immerse yourself in classes that discuss perspectives that you think you dislike or claim not to understand, you're going to learn something. Be open to change and discomfort. Invite it, actually.

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