"Cornell students dream bigger dreams."

--Frank H.T. Rhodes, Cornell University Commencement, May 28, 1995

Monday, February 3, 2014

69. Rodrigo Abela

Arlington, Virginia · Engineering


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.
After Cornell I went to graduate school, where I got my masters in architecture and landscape architecture and where I also met my wife, Susi. We now live in Arlington, VA with our two kids, Sofia (11) and Antonio (8).

Professionally, I spend my days drawing and designing. As a landscape architect I work on projects across the country, typically in culturally significant, complex urban sites. I have worked in downtown Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and most recently in Washington, DC. I have been incredibly lucky to work on projects that really engage these cities, their unique histories, culture, and people, and that allow me to play a role in creating new spaces that have been embraced and have become part of the identity of their respective cities.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

I really enjoyed our materials science class, but looking back on it, what stands out, less than a specific subject matter, is classes with particular professors who had a gift for teaching – professors Williamson and Warhaft in the Engineering School, professor Haith in the Agriculture School, and professor Blum in the Architecture school, to name a few. In each case they were clearly passionate about what they were teaching and found a way to convey that passion and make the material relevant and incredibly interesting. Even years later I find myself drawing on those experiences over and over.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

My roommates and I lived in a house on Eddy Street with a generous and inviting front porch and we always seemed to have a diverse cast of characters coming through. I remember once when my friend Mai (Vietnamese/French) and I (Bolivian) were sitting on the porch trying to teach English phrases to a Turkish post-doc who had just arrived from Istanbul. That moment has always stayed with me as a reminder that while Ithaca may be a remote and isolated part of upstate New York, for me it was a great window into the wider world.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

Explore at all levels – take advantage of the almost limitless range of options that are available and the amazing teachers and researchers that surround you. Seek out and be open to different people, different ideas and don’t forget to discover the actual campus, and make it your own.