Chris Mills: 'I'm proud of the relationships I've made and I'm hoping they will carry forward'

Mon, 05/23/2016

Chris Mills

Economics & Computer Science

Vienna, VA

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I've had several turning points at Cornell. Aside from my faith, pursuing research in economics my sophomore year – boldly, and probably awkwardly, asking a professor for a research assistant opportunity after the first day of his class – was a significant moment in my undergraduate career. From one opportunity to the next, working with several development economists and grad students helped me see some of the ways studying economics can deliver real value to communities of people and opened my eyes to the breadth of interesting and meaningful questions that can be asked in the field. I had struggled with doubts about vocation and calling before coming to college and for most of my time here, so it's been fulfilling to see those early research opportunities in economics blossom into a vision of pursuing something both intellectually fulfilling and with the potential for making real impacts in my lifetime.

What is your main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?

Outside of my classes and research, I have been heavily involved in the Asian American InterVarsity (AAIV) Christian fellowship during my four years here. Identifying neither as Asian American nor as particularly spiritual prior to college, I'm surprised it happened. What I discovered at AAIV, though, was a community of seekers and believers wrestling with questions of identity, purpose, reconciliation (social and racial) and motivation by a profound faith in God to love the campus. There have also been some pretty positive side effects in terms of leadership development, being vulnerable with others, and learning to receive from others with grace. Being involved has really helped transform my worldview and kindled a motivation for meaningful relationships and work. People ask why I chose AAIV, but I think it chose me.

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

Looking back, I'm not sure how much I've really accomplished during my time here, but I'm proud of the relationships I've made and I'm hoping they will carry forward. It was a great privilege to work with friends from the International Livestock Research Institute to help advance insurance solutions for at-risk livestock herders in Sub-Saharan Africa. When I look back at the small 2012-2013 "rookie of the year" sports writer award from when I wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun, I'm reminded of friends who sacrificed a lot of their time to bring information and narrative to the campus. Writing an undergraduate thesis beside nine exceptional peers in economics has been a fantastic experience, and will hopefully kick-start a career of independent research. I'm also proud of meeting with prospective students in the dining halls or at Tanner Dean Scholars receptions, some of whom were on the fence about Cornell, and seeing them come and contribute to the campus community in really incredible ways. I'm also very thankful to have gotten to serve in my fellowship for three years, to stretch outside my comfort zone and, looking back, seeing people's lives transformed.