Meet Jaden Jeswald
College: College of Arts and Sciences
Major: Environmental Engineering, Sustainable Energy Systems track
Year: Fall '22 Bachelors, Spring '23 Masters
Campus Employment: Cornell Outdoor Education (COE) Instructor for LandCourses, teaching classes such as Wilderness Survival Skills, Backpacking in the Finger Lakes, and Backcountry Photography
Career Readiness Competencies gained:
- Critical Thinking
- Equity & Inclusion
Students work at campus jobs and internships ranging from office support to peer advisor to intramural referee -- many of which are hosted within Student & Campus Life. In the interview below, learn more about Jaden Jeswald, who is employed as a Land Courses Instructor for Cornell Outdoor Education.
Out of all the opportunities on campus, why did you choose this one?
The reason I chose my major is the same reason I gravitated towards COE from even before I started my Cornell journey five years ago. I grew up with a love for the outdoors and the space that they provide to explore, problem solve, and grow mentally and physically. Unlike many other activities, the outdoors are beautiful, challenging, relaxing, and more all at once. After coming to Cornell, I wanted to take advantage of all the school had to offer and after seeing all the courses COE has, I wanted to take as many as I could.
As I learned, I found myself having a bit more experience than some other students and discussed applying with my own COE instructors. Soon I was teaching alongside those that I was a student with but also a student of and that was so rewarding. Being an instructor for COE allows me to share my excitement with others in a way that I can't find almost anywhere else. There is no wrong way to enjoy the outdoors and COE is the embodiment of this.
Describe some of your responsibilities
Logistically, I take roll, make sure we have all of our necessary equipment, pick locations, and plan with my co-instructors. More broadly, I am in charge of guiding students and letting them explore new environments or build upon their skills in an outdoor setting. This includes setting up lesson plans but being flexible to respond to the wants the students have in terms of curriculum. I also work hand-in-hand with my co-instructors to play to each other's strengths and generally enjoy our time. My largest responsibility is my students’ safety as they might not have any experience or might have a lot and the variety of comfort levels must all be balanced.
What skills have you developed in your campus job?
Communication: The largest skill I've developed is communication. I am an extrovert and love people but not all communication is verbal and not everyone communicates the same. As an instructor, I've learned (and am continuing to learn) how to read faces, body language, actions, and words to know when I should help or when I should let someone learn themselves. Additionally, I've learned what needs to be planned explicitly and where there can be flexibility in plans.
Critical Thinking: Within each COE course, there are many challenges that arise that even with specific planning cannot be accounted for. These can be as simple as accidentally leaving an item behind to as extreme as injuries or bad weather. As the instructor, it is my responsibility to adapt and overcome these challenges by thinking critically and planning ahead as much as possible.
Teamwork: Teamwork is sometimes very necessary to addressing challenges and it is almost certain that I will need to ask the students to assist with carrying items or doing tasks for the group. In addition to being a necessity, these tasks also empower the students to be leaders themselves.
Equity & Inclusion: Lastly, being an instructor has allowed me to strengthen my skills with equity and inclusion. Every group of students in a course is different and each student has their own individual experiences. One of the things I love about COE is that any person can take the courses with or without a background in outdoor activities. What that means for me as an instructor is that the way the class is structured must be given in a way that challenges those with experience while being comfortable for those without.
What comes out of your position that most surprised you?
The thing that has most surprised me is how much I do know. I came into this position loving the idea of instructing but feeling less than confident about my ability to teach those of my own age (or close). COE is wonderful in the way that it allows every participant to offer what they know and boost confidence as well. As I previously mentioned, there is no wrong way to enjoy the outdoors (other than not being safe!) and the variety of things I've learned as well as realized I do have to share was a good surprise.
What experiences or skills have you developed that you feel will help you down the road in your career?
Not unlike a stressful work environment, the challenges of the outdoors can bring out a lot of emotions in people. A very hard hike can be challenging and draining along the way but the view makes it worth it, or being able to look back and say "I did that?!". The specific situations may be very different but the emotions are not. Being able to work through this and help others work through it as well is something that translates to other high intensity situations. COE has made me believe in myself more but also help others believe in themselves as well.
What advice do you have for other students interested in an on-campus job?
I'd say do it. But do it for the right reasons. Finances are stressful and so are classes but do not just apply for a job because it pays. Cornell has a multitude of opportunities so I would recommend exploring and finding something that truly interests you. Being a student is a full-time job and the mental burden of also needing to work can be overwhelming. I'm lucky I found COE because it's a job but it doesn't feel like it so I would say explore to find something that is like that for you.