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Veritas Academy: Faith, Learning, & Making the Most of College

A Pre-College Retreat for Incoming Cornell Freshmen: July 19-21, 2018

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Veritas Academy is a three-day residential experience for incoming Cornell freshmen, held July 19-21 on the Cornell University Campus. Led by Christian faculty, upperclassmen, alumni, and campus ministers, this experience helps incoming students ask the big questions, design a meaningful college experience, learn practical tips, and build a faith community among peers – all before arriving on campus in the fall. The curriculum draws upon The Veritas Forum’s 25 years of experience engaging faith and inquiry on America’s leading campuses.

Faculty Mentors:


Ludmilla Aristilde, Assistant Professor of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University

Ludmilla Aristilde joined the faculty in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering in the Fall of 2012. While growing up in Haiti, her interest in environmental issues was sparked by witnessing the impacts of deforestation on the environment and the links between water pollution and health during an epidemic outbreak of cholera. After emigrating to the States, she came to Cornell and completed a dual-degree program with a B.S. in Science of Earth Systems and a B.F.A. in Fine Arts. She went on to the University of California-Berkeley where she obtained her M.S. in Environmental Engineering and Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology. Her research was on the environmental chemistry and toxicology of pharmaceutical compounds discharged in waters and soils. After Berkeley, she went to Grenoble (France) as an American Fulbright Scholar to advance her study of spectroscopic techniques to investigate the trapping of organic contaminants by mineral particles. Prior to her return to Cornell, she spent three years as a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University where she studied molecular biology tools to address problems at the interface of environmental chemistry and biological processes.

Jonathan Butcher, Associate Professor and Associate Director of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University

Jonathan Butcher is an Associate Professor and the Associate Director of the Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, where he has taught since 2007. He received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Virginia in 2000, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2004. Jonathan is also the first Director of Undergraduate Studies for the undergraduate major of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell, which began in 2015. He has a passion for building student community and exploring the intersections of science, engineering, and the human condition. He and his wife Christine live in Ithaca NY with their five children.

Karl Johnson, Founder and Executive Director, Chesterton House

Karl Johnson ’89, PhD ’11, is the founder and Executive Director of Chesterton House-A Center for Christian Studies at Cornell. He received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Cornell University. Karl previously served as the Dan Tillemans Director of the Cornell Team and Leadership Center, a division of Cornell Outdoor Education. Karl was recognized as a 1999 Academy of Leisure Sciences Future Scholar and has received several writing awards, including the 2014 Literary Award of the Christian Society of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies. His interests include human relations with the natural landscape, from wilderness to urban environs.

David Lodge, Director, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Cornell University

David Lodge’s appointment at Cornell University began in May of 2016, serving as the first Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. His academic home at Cornell is in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a joint appointment in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on ecological forecasting to better inform environmental risk assessment, policy development, and natural resource management.  On numerous occasions Dr. Lodge has testified before the U.S. Congress, and has also served as an expert witness in federal court. He served as the first chair of the U.S. government’s national Invasive Species Advisory Committee in 2000-01, led research on freshwater biodiversity as part of the United Nations’ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2000-05, and led an expert subcommittee providing advice to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on reducing invasions from the ballast water of ships in 2010-11. He is a member of the scientific advisory boards of NOAA and the International Joint Commission. He served as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the US Department of State in 2014-15, and faculty member at the University of Notre Dame for over 28 years. David lives with his wife, Andrea, and attends Bread of Life Anglican Church of Ithaca.


David Ng, Professor of Finance, Cornell University

David Ng is a Professor of Finance at Cornell. He served as a Visiting Associate Professor of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2010 and a Research Fellow at Wharton Financial Institutions Center. He conducts research in empirical asset pricing. In particular, he studies fund flows and examines how fund flows affect asset prices domestically and internationally. He also conducts research on implied cost of capital and its applications in finance. He received his Ph.D. with distinction from Columbia University.

Praveeen Sethupathy, Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University

Praveen is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell University. He received his BA degree from Cornell University and his PhD in Genomics from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Human Genome Research Institute under the mentorship of Dr. Francis Collins, he moved in 2011 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics. In 2017, he returned to Cornell University as an Associate Professor. Praveen has authored over 70 publications, and has served as a reviewer for over 30 different journals. Recent honors include a faculty merit award for outstanding teaching and mentoring. Praveen’s laboratory is located in the newly renovated Research Tower on Tower Road. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife and three children.

Staff and Coaches:

Nicole Arthur Riley lives in a 400ft2 cottage in Ithaca, NY with her husband Wallace. She studied English Writing and English Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, in her fifth year on staff with the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach), she is serving full-time at Cornell University in partnership with Chesterton House– a Center for Christian Studies. In this role she oversees the ministry’s residential program, assists with lectures and public events, meets with students for times of spiritual formation, and advises, Claritas, the journal for Christian thought at Cornell. A redeemed skeptic, Cole is currently learning what it means to wonder well and embrace mystery. She enjoys short stories, cryptograms, and watching people cook.

Billy Riley is originally from the rolling farmlands of south central PA. He works alongside his wife, Cole, as CCO campus staff at Cornell University in partnership with Chesterton House– a Center for Christian Studies. He received bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and psychology from Washington & Jefferson College and is interested in the ways philosophy informs the Christian faith. Billy oversees much of the programmatic aspects of the ministry, as well as meets with men in the house for spiritual formation. He also advises Veritas Forum’s student chapter at Cornell.  He loves movies, playing basketball, and healthy introspection.

Nancy Ren is a rising senior at Cornell University majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Music and Business. At Cornell, she’s a volunteer coordinator for Project Generations, which works to foster relationship between students and elders in the Ithaca community. She also works on research involving iron and calcium metabolism impact on fetal and maternal health in the O’Brien lab. She is also plays as a harpsichordist for the Baroque Orchestra and works as a photographer for the Cornell Yearbook. She loves having long conversations with people deep into the night, exploring new places, and cooking. She’s currently applying to medical school and is considering going into geriatrics or OB/GYN.

Zachary Lee is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying English, Creative Writing, and Spanish. He is an active member of Claritas: A Journal for Christian Thought at Cornell, serving as Editor-in-Chief for the Spring 2018 issue. Zachary is also a recent recipient of the Evangelical Press Award, winning first place in the Student Writer of the Year category for his article, “Theology of the Undead”– a review of Danielle Strickland’s book, The Zombie Gospel. When he is not writing poetry and performing it, he can be found analyzing Summer blockbusters, reading Dostoevsky, and listening to Christian hip-hop.

Evelyn Shan is a rising senior at Cornell University studying Government and History, with a minor in Education. Within Cornell’s fellowship community, she is part of Chinese Bible Study. Outside of CBS, she is involved in International Justice Mission at Cornell, AIESEC Cornell, and the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. Some of her favorite things are quality time with her apartment mates, spontaneous jam sessions, and a good podcast.



Anderson Chang is a rising senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences majoring in Animal Science. Oncampus, Anderson helps train service dogs for children and veterans in need through Merlin’s Kids, a non-profit that recruits service dogs from animal shelters across the nation with high rates of euthanasia. He also helps lead worship with Christian Union at Cornell. When classes aren’t in session, he spends time exploring local swimming holes and hiking spots in the area, catches up on his horticulture hobby, and he also works part-time at a small, local dairy farm.


Students will come out of Veritas Academy with: 

  • Relationships with faculty, upperclassmen, and alumni
  • A framework for integrating faith and learning in college
  • Tools for designing a meaningful college experience
  • A vision for serving and contributing to campus life
  • A faith community of peers before orientation starts

WhenJuly 19 – July 21, 2018
Where: Cornell University Campus
Who: Soon-to-be freshmen at Cornell who are excited to cultivate their faith in college, intentionally contribute to campus life, and meet Christian faculty, upperclassmen, alumni, campus ministers, and peers
What: An intensive learning experience that provides incoming Cornell freshmen with the tools, resources, community and vision to flourish in college

How: Apply by June 30

Cost: $199

Scholarships (including travel costs) are available upon application. Have further questions? Send an email to


To learn more, contact

You can learn more about the Chesterton House, a Christian Study Center at Cornell University, here. Additionally, if you would like to take a week long, for-credit course on the Gospel of Mark starting immediately after the Academy, you can find more info here.