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Ellie Arroway Wastes No Time Rocketing to Week 4 Win

MIT was in desperate need of redemption this week and they found it in Ellie Arroway. Members of the MIT community quickly launched a wave of votes in support of the wormhole-traversing scientist, many indicating the character had actually impacted their lives—one voter even named a daughter after her.

Other notable votes:

“Ellie Arroway changed my life when I was in high school. She was my role model for many years… [quoting Arroway] ‘I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it’ (teary-eyed emoticon).” —Rubén

“Given that fictional Ellie Arroway has been a real inspiration to struggling scientists already, if she were real, young scientists would have an even better role model to follow. Her impact in Contact is global and she becomes known worldwide.” —Kevin

Even Big Red alumni showed respect for Arroway and turned on their fellow “alumna” Natalie Keener. Mere minutes into the round, Shana tweeted that “I’m a CU alum, but have to say Ellie, a (possibly nutty, but) gifted scientist. Natalie annoyed the crap out of me.” Said Chris, “I really hate to go against my beloved alma mater, but this is no contest: Ellie Arroway all the way. I guess we get the consolation prize knowing that Ellie was invented by a Cornell professor…”

The judges were impressed with the argument that Ellie Arroway’s creator, Carl Sagan, taught at Cornell and gleaned inspiration for the character from real Cornellian Jill Cornell Tarter. As Corey pointed out, “Not only is [Tarter] a phenomenal Cornellian, but she’s also a distant relative of Ezra Cornell and has the middle name of Cornell. Any points she earns for MIT should actually be directed toward Cornell in this battle.”


“Natalie by default. Arroway wouldn’t exist if not for the genius of a Cornell professor. (It that giveth life taketh away?)” —Brooks

“Since Contact was filmed at a Cornell facility of Arecibo, the Big Red wins either way!!” —Karen

But, one has to wonder, why didn’t Sagan make her a Cornellian from the outset? And actually, Hollywood moviemakers changed Arroway’s alma mater to MIT. In the book she graduated from Harvard. So really, Sagan, while deserving all the credit for creating the character, did not create her alumna status. And, as one supporter noted, “What kid dreams of being a corporate raider when she grows up? Astronauts are way cooler!”

There were some intriguing Cornell votes that pointed to Keener’s personal growth as proof she would have more to offer society:

“Natalie Keener is the obvious choice here. Both she and Ellie are smart, ambitious women looking to make something of themselves. Where Natalie pulls ahead is showing that she is a wiser person. Once she realizes that she is in the wrong situation in her life, she fearlessly quits her job, moves, and finds something that works much better. Ellie stubbornly soldiers on, working for a bad boss and wasting time making first contact with alien life, when she could have changed positions and found true happiness with her preacher-man. Natalie demonstrates a life lesson: Find your way, then manage your fear and make it happen, now.” —V

“Natalie…she will revolutionize something, even if she falls flat on her face.” —Monica

“The important distinction here is that a character’s ability to contribute to society is based on how his/her story ENDS, not how it begins. That would be like selecting young Anakin Skywalker, without considering the fact that he became Darth Vader. Character development is key here, and we must know how the character’s story ends because that’s the person who will be doing the contribution to society. While MIT’s Ellie came into the beginning of the movie with promise in scientific innovation, by the end of the movie she reneges on the scientific method and pushes people to believe in her vision, whether her experience was real or just neurons firing off. Rather than character degeneration and obsession, Cornell’s Natalie Keener understands how to surmount challenges that may be beyond one person and comes out for the better.” —Brian

But in the end, the judges sided with the character who could potentially impact existence as everyone knows it:

“Oh, let me think…moving our civilization forward by doing fundamental research and reaching for the stars, or firing human beings via video conferencing…Hmm, tough choice, that one.” —Jean

“The most memorable thing about Keener was that she failed to stop someone from committing suicide. Ellie was the first to understand an alien broadcast, was the first human to make first contact, and in the end bridged the ‘divide’ between faith and science.” —David

“Discovering extraterrestrial life, or discovering that remote lay-offs don’t work? Vote Ellie.” —Gerardo

“Natalie brings a world of pain to individuals, Ellie brings our world into the larger community of sophisticated space-faring species. Ellie wins, no contest!” —Emily

“Let’s see, Fire me, or Fire me up. I think Ellie has got to win for going through a wormhole to visit aliens.” —Joe

“There’s no contest this week. Natalie’s contribution is in learning how to fire people better. Ellie, inspiration to scientists, has a real passion to meet ET.” —Barry

Check out the brackets in the sidebar. The next match-up will be announced on this site, Facebook, and Twitter on Monday, Oct. 24. No hints for this one. You’ll just have to be surprised. Oh, the suspense…

Twitter hashtag: #MITCU

Cornell Facebook: http://on.fb.me/kOEvxp.

MIT Facebook: http://on.fb.me/w1qwP.

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