First-Generation Student Kundan Moktan ’09 Planted Career Seeds at Keuka College

The Nepal native combined a Field Period, a little networking, and a lot of hard work to build a thriving career in the agriculture industry.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Field Periods often lead to networking opportunities.

And sometimes, networking can lead to a Field Period opportunity.
That was the case for Kundan Moktan ’09, and it has made all the difference in his career arc.
Kundan was a first-generation student from Nepal when he arrived at Keuka College in 2005 with a strong work ethic, a healthy dose of optimism, and very little else.
Not even his luggage, which arrived before he did.
After landing at JFK International Airport, Kundan missed a connecting flight to Baltimore, where he stayed with relatives for a couple of days before heading to Keuka Park. His suitcases didn’t follow. It wasn’t until he arrived on campus that he got a message: “My luggage was at Ball Hall!”
He hadn’t stressed his misplaced belongings. That ability to roll with the unexpected served him in good stead as he became acclimated to his new College – and country.
“I was never homesick,” he said. “I integrated seamlessly. When you come from poverty – Nepal is a third-world country – and you come to a college, you never thought of stuff like that. This was a luxury!”
A dual major in environmental sciences and visual/verbal arts, Kundan took a biochemistry course during his junior year from Dr. Wlodzimierz Borejsza Wysocki, a noted researcher who also worked part-time for Cornell AgriTech. That’s when the networking began.
Dr. Wysocki’s wife worked with a second Cornell researcher who had an opening for an intern. Word got back to Kundan, who applied, was accepted, and conducted the internship as a Field Period.
Kundan hit the lab to help determine what gene in an apple causes the production of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, which causes apples to turn brown when they react with air.
More than 15 years later, he’s still with Cornell AgriTech, managing dozens of greenhouses and growth chambers at the Geneva, N.Y., campus. He said he owes his career to the connections he made through Keuka College and its Field Period program.
“Keuka College gave me the opportunity,” Kundan said. “There wasn’t a big ag or plant-based curriculum at Keuka College but it was all hands-on learning. Because of the Field Period, you expose yourself to new opportunities. That exposure basically is what has led me to this career.”


Because of the Field Period, you expose yourself to new opportunities. That exposure basically is what has led me to this career.

Kundan Moktan ’09

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