"Cornell students dream bigger dreams."

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

27. Leigh Ellen Baca

Manassas, Virginia · Arts and Sciences

Name at Cornell
Leigh Ellen Alford

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leighellen.baca

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I have been an at-home mother for the past 5 years. My husband, Michael, and I have been married for 15 years and are raising two wonderful children. My son is 5 and my daughter has just turned 3. I also serve as a Deacon and as chair of the mission ministry team at my church in Manassas. Before kids, I tried on several careers. I studied oceanography in graduate school, worked in poultry feed research, and was an assistant research scientist at a pharmaceutical company before I left science in favor of fostering family connections.

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

There were many which inspired my life's journey, but I think Functional Morphology with Dr. McLearn was my absolute favorite. We dissected almost everything in the animal kingdom (OK - maybe not everything), and it really cemented my love of life sciences. Functional Morphology was my "OH - This totally makes sense!" class. It was a bouncing off point that led me deeper into ecology and marine sciences. In addition to the academic challenges, the course fostered teamwork and collaborative learning, which are skills that have served me well since leaving CU.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

My favorite memory of Cornell is from the blizzard of 1993. I lived in Balch and most of my friends lived in Cascadilla. A 'search team' of a couple friends made it up to North Campus to trapse back across campus with me so we could all go half crazy in the snow together.

And the meals! So many fun times were shared in the dining halls from Freshman year until we graduated.

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

My advice to anyone starting Cornell, or any university, is to stick it out. Everyone struggles with the changes in the first semester, and it is far too easy to give up and go home. My parents were wise enough to have me stay beyond my "please bring me home" panic. By the end of my freshman year, I couldn't imagine anyplace else. And be sure to enjoy the beauty of Ithaca! There is so much to do and see beyond the campus.