Juliana Batista: Living In the Moment and Outside of Her Comfort Zone

Name: Juliana Batista

Year: Class of 2016

Major: Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR)

Minors: Economics, Business

Hometown: Southborough, MA

Favorite Quote: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Anonymous

Favorite Color: Turquoise

A lot of people recognize that you’re involved with the Student Assembly (SA). How did you first get involved with the SA?

My freshman year, I ran for Student Assembly Freshman Representative, and that was during the first two weeks of school. I think that really shaped by whole Cornell experience because even if I hadn’t won, I met so many incredible students from the Class of 2016. I would just go up to them in the dining hall and have a conversation. I was chalking all over North Campus, I was getting to know upperclassmen, and I really kind of got a crash course in Cornell. That is how I got involved in the Student Assembly, and I think the Student Assembly has been a primary factor in shaping my Cornell experience.

So you won Freshman Rep., right? How did you decide to run for that?

Well actually, I hadn’t been super successful in high school politics. I did my prom, but I think when I came to Cornell, I saw a lot more opportunity in the way that the system had worked here in comparison to our peer institutions. We had a lot more connection to administrators and them requiring a response from us and having our process be really legislative, I found really interesting. I thought I’d go for it. A friend from home called me the day before to get the petition signed and really strongly encouraged me to do it, and that was really the reason why.

So you’ve been on the SA ever since then?

I have. I’ve served is so many different capacities. It’s incredible the amount of breadth and depth of knowledge that I have about our system as well as Cornell’s system. I’ve been Freshman Rep., Women’s Rep., Vice President for Outreach, Executive Vice President, and now I am President-Elect. I served as the Co-Chair of the Student Assembly Committee on Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. I’ve run Lift Your Spirits and Breaking the Silence, sponsored numerous resolutions, served on a variety of University Assembly committees. I’ve really had my hand in many different pots. I think sometime the Student Assembly is a lot of an unspoken force on campus. So something will change in the dining halls, or something will change in the housing system, or something will change within the Greek system even, and you just kind of take it as a status quo, especially if you come in as a freshman, but some of those meaningful changes like “Speak About It” originated in the Student Assembly. Cayuga’s Watchers originated in the Student Assembly. Gender-neutral housing originated in the Student Assembly. So I think it’s kind of cool to be an unspoken force, and I don’t need the credit. I like to see the change and the impact.

So how did you determine that you wanted to be the president of the SA?

I think it was a natural fit. I saw we were in a time of frustration and tumultuousness, and we need someone who could connect with students, who is on their level, who was willing to go across sides and work with the activists on campus. It’s also kind of an exciting time right now. We have three, new top-level administrators coming in. And not that the first day that they’re going to come in they are going to make all these changes, but the student leaders that they interact with in their first year are going to be the biggest impact for them in terms of student life and the vision that they create for the next five to ten years. That’s a really exciting opportunity, and I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to be involved and interact in that.

What does your year as president look like for you?

In the fall, it’s very busy because it is byline funding which means we allocate our entire student activity fee. The student activity fee is lumped together every two years and allocated among thirteen byline organizations and all the student activities. That’s a huge responsibility and is often very contentious with running those meetings and operating that and also overseeing the entire operations and effectiveness of the assemblies. We have committees, for example, in residential life. We have a tech committee, and we have committees that are working on diversity initiatives on campus. I will be helping each of those committees feel empowered to look critically at the campus, find routes of action, and work on solving the problems on campus. It’s my job to facilitate that and to empower all of the representatives and all of the committee members and make them feel as though they are working toward something that is meaningful.

What are some of the goals that you want to accomplish?

Looking at a broader agenda for myself, I still really want to create a legal advising system. I am working with the Law School on that. I’d like to see a better late-night transportation shuttle system. Further, I’d like to see open course evaluations on campus, as well as a research unit within the Student Assembly. Through all those things, I really aim to do those on a high level, and I am trying to make them happen.

Could you tell us more about the research unit you mentioned?

It is a resolution coming from the Student Assembly. The research unit would take big data from across campus, whether that be how many students go to counseling services and at what times of the year, how many students transfer out of their major, which dining halls are used most often and when, etc. The Student Assembly would propose questions to a research unit of students that would look for these gaps in data and come up with qualitative answers backed by quantitative solutions. For example, we’re doing a Greek life investigation right now. It would have been great if we could have used this research unit to look into transports, how many students drop out of Greek life, and what does that mean for the policies that we are trying to enact. So when students are talking to administrators, we can show them that is the research that we have done, here are the numbers that we have come to, and this is why we are proposing this specific proposal that we are giving to the administrators.

As SA president, will you be working alongside Cornell University’s new president?

We have already met with President-elect Garrett, and I got a selfie with her. She’s great. I think one of her things she is really going to try to do is to break down the bureaucracy within Cornell by looking to see what structures, committees, and processes we have that are superfluous, and how we can get rid of them so she can start with a good baseline. I think she is very intelligent, very quick-witted, and willing to speak her mind. She is going to be someone who is going to listen to students, but I don’t think that she will be easily trampled-over by them.

What are your plans for this summer?

This summer, I’ll be working in asset management at Deutsche Bank in New York City, and I did that last summer. I hope to eventually take that one day and use it in a broader policy sense or take it in a way that’s integrating with humanitarian issues or with the arts. But right now, I really enjoy what I’m doing. It’s very fascinating to see how markets work, following that, and keeping abreast of current issues.

What would your dream job be?

I think my dream job is to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Being at the core of a company and crafting its strategy fascinates me.

What are your hobbies?

I love playing jazz piano. I have been playing since second grade, and that’s really a lifetime passion of mine. I see pianos as a sense of release for myself. I really enjoy music and creating music. I love to kitesurf as well. In the summer, I usually get a couple weeks at Cape Cod. For two summers I was a waitress on the Cape, and I actually found out that I was living on the best kitesurfing beach in New England. So I would go out there and kitesurf. I was the only girl, and I was in my pink bathing suit. There were a bunch of twenty- to fifty-year-old men kitesurfing, and I was out there pumping up my kite. It was just like to prove people wrong, and I actually ended up loving the sport. So I have the gear, and I wish I did it more. I also really like cooking. It’s nice because unlike other colleges, we get to live in apartments here at Cornell. I have a group of friends, and we get to do potlucks every weekend. That’s really fun, and you get to try out new recipes and share them with friends over a weekend conversation which is really nice.

How did you know that you wanted to be an ILR major?

I was really fascinated by the concept of getting a holistic view of the workforce. I think for me with an economics minor and a business minor, I really get to see the workplace not only from a human capital perspective but also from a policy perspective as well from a financial perspective. I thought graduating from Cornell having that holistic view would give me the opportunities that I want in the future, and having a degree like that can be very moldable. I think that is really important in this day in age. I just found it interesting to learn about labor history, which is kind of like the unspoken history of the United States. I also got involved with the ILR School’s Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, where I learned about alternative dispute resolution and different ways to litigate just beyond doing law, where someone can be involved in arbitration and mediation. Learning about that side of the workforce is also really fascinating to me.

Who is your role model?

My parents are my role models. They are selfless, hardworking, creative, and dreamers. I would not be able to imagine the world around me and continue to succeed without them.

How many tasks on “161 Things Every Cornelian Should Do” list have you already achieved?

I have done 102 things.

Which one was your favorite?

I love the Ithaca Farmers’ Market. That’s my favorite. I go biking on the weekend a lot, and sometimes I will bike to the Farmers’ Market. I have also gone many times with my family. I think it is such a quintessential Ithaca experience, and I am particularly a fan of the burritos and the apple cider there. It’s just great because I think sometimes there is a “Cornell bubble,” and a lot of times you don’t get outside of that bubble. The opportunity to just hang out with friends, enjoy the scenery and the area, get outside, and enjoy what this beautiful town and city has to offer is pretty awesome.

Which one are you most looking forward to?

I still want to play inner-tube water polo. I will make that happen next year.

Do you have any advice for freshmen?

I would say to a new student that your first month is probably the most important month of your time here. Really take it as a chance to hit the ground running, and enjoy the optimism of being a new student and try to embrace that in all four years that you are here. I also think that there is life as you knew it as a high schooler, and Cornell kind of flips that upside-down. Just go with the flow of it. I think people also make the mistake of confining themselves to experiences and people that are familiar. But really, there is not much harm or foul or loss that you are going to have by trying to connect with someone who is new. Your best experience will be doing something that is spontaneous and meeting someone who is very different and taking that opportunity to understand who they are. Maybe you aren’t going to become best friends, but if you learn some really cool fact about some other place of the world, or try salsa dancing or meet someone who is really into building a new technology. Just understanding and being curious about the world around you is something that if you start doing that your first year, it just kind of flows into the rest of your time here and hopefully into the rest of your life. You have classes and stresses that first month, but really they are is not that heavy that first month, so just trying to release everything from the past and really letting yourself really live in the present with those students that you are surrounded by on North Campus.

What other organizations are you involved with at Cornell?

I am in Consent Ed, and I’m also involved with my social sorority, Delta Delta Delta. I’m also in Mortar Board, the senior honor society, and the University Assembly. I was a resident advisor last year, and I still consider that part of my Cornell experience.

Is there anything else that you want to tell our readers about yourself?

I think that a lot of people see me as Student Assembly president on campus, but there is a lot more to my experience here. Yes, the SA has really shaped what I have done, but I really enjoy exploring Ithaca. I really enjoy the arts. I dance, I play piano, and I sing. They’re kind of hidden things that people don’t know about but are very much a part of my life. I think there is more to me than just being the person whom you read about in The Cornell Daily Sun being quoted on articles, showing up to events, or passing resolutions.

Friend Juliana on Facebook and Follow @JulesBatista on Instagram.