Monthly Archives: October 2013

Cornell Themed Semesters: Who Wants to do one of these with Me?

With the last course pre-enroll period of my undergraduate career rapidly approaching, I gotta say, I’m a little sad that this is it for me class-wise. As lame as it sounds, ever since my senior year of high school when I first saw the Cornell Courses of Study–a huge phonebook size text that’s not printed anymore–I’ve gotten excited thinking about the incredible array (literally, thousands!) of scheduling possibilities, and thus enjoy picking classes. Cornell is known, interestingly enough, not only for its breadth of choices, but for the unconventional nature of some of them as well. Where else could you take Understanding Wine and Beer, Tree Climbing, Bizarre Biology of Bugs, or Casino Operations?

I always thought it’d be cool to do a themed semester–taking a group of courses that all have a common and fun theme to them. Unfortunately, because students get wrapped up in schedules that revolve around their major requirements and career goals, I doubt anyone would actually do one of these. If I had 25k to blow and all the time in the world, maybe I would! (If you do try one of these semesters, let me know how it goes.) Let me list some possibilities and provide some commentary, with some inspiration from this thread I stumbled upon while researching. Remember, these are all real Cornell classes–click each title for the description.

The James Bond Schedule:

Math 1350: The Art of Secret Writing–This course teaches cryptology and how to crack codes; it doesn’t get cooler or more Bond-esque than that.

HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines–Purely to stay classy.

PE 1515: Introduction to Handgun Safety–If it fits, I might actually be taking this next semester.

HIST 2690: History of Terrorism–Self explanatory.

The “I’M NOT READY FOR THE REAL WORLD: SOMEONE TEACH ME PRACTICAL SKILLS” semester:

NS 2470: Food for Contemporary LivingConsidering my cooking abilities stop beyond popcorn and microwavable dinners, this might be useful.

HD 3620: Human Bonding–So you know how humans interact (I’ve heard this course is actually very rigorous.)

HADM 3200: Personal Financial Management–Actually, I know a friend that took this and found it useful. Is lesson 1 don’t buy the $200 textbook for the class?

PE 1613: Wilderness Survival Skills–It doesn’t get more pragmatic than this.

FREN 3540: On Paying Attention–I’m guessing this class has a no cell-phone policy.

The Walt Disney World Semester:

PMA 3670: Themed Entertainment: The Technical Perspective–Umm, this course literally teaches you how to make and install amusement park rides….and the “focus is on the specialized entertainment technologies that make these attractions work: audio and lighting design, ride and show control systems, and special effects.”

ENGL 2730: Children’s Literature–It sounds interesting and different enough. I’m not sure if liberal arts majors reading Kant and Shakespeare in other classes take this course as a reprieve, or if it’s still rigorous…

PE 1340: Juggling–or as I’d call it, “how to be a hit at cocktail parties.”

HADM 3350: Restaurant Management-Because those Disney restaurants get busy, and someone’s gotta know how to manage a hectic place during rush hour.

The Donald Trump semester:

ILRLR 2300: Argumentation and Debate–Though, would the Donald really need to take a class in something he’s a master of?

HADM 4200: Principles of Real Estate–Self explanatory.

HIST 1540: American Capitalism–Why not learn about the system he loves so much?

NBA 6710: Business Ethics–Seems like someone with that much power might find this useful.

The Roger Ebert/Movie Buff “Two Thumbs Up” Schedule:

I could go on, but for the sake of brevity I won’t get carried away. If you have suggestions, comment or get in touch!

The Cornell Class that Taught me the Most (And it has Little to do with the Course Material!)

As a Cornell senior who has taken 5-6 classes a semester, and holds a few mentoring positions, I’ve been asked a few times (by particularly business-minded students) to recommend a course that has taught me a lot, or prepared me for x internship or job.

Let me take a different approach to answering that question, which might be helpful. Why? Because this is Cornell, and it’s fairly safe to assume that any course title that connotes practical applications will be rigorous and at least of some use to you. AEM 2210: Financial Accounting will teach you accounting well, AEM 2100: Statistics will give you a useful overview of statistical methods, and the like.

Here’s one course, though, which has undoubtedly prepared me exceptionally well for the real world: AEM 2240/3240, Finance.
Widely regarded on the Ag Quad as the most rigorous course in the AEM major for years, Bloomberg Businessweek did an article on the class in 2006. Sure, the hundreds (thousands?) of pages of mandatory reading and 4.5 hours of lecture weekly, combined with difficult multiple choice exams, have forever drilled in my head firm valuation techniques, debt-for-equity substitutions and capital structure theories…but it’s the excellent, yet demanding, teaching style of the instructor that has prepared me for the real world.

Want to know some applicable career skills I’ve practiced, when I took it last semester?
  • Be exactly on time…and not a minute late. In Finance, the professor could lock the lecture hall doors 1 minute into his lecture–and straggling students might be able to enter later on.  In the real world, I’m sure having a knack for being timely–which you can bet I was–will pay off in interviews, meetings and the like.
  • Know your stuff. This class definitely taught me the value of preparation. Certain days, students in the ~200 person class were randomly called from a list to answer a specific question about the required reading assigned. If you didn’t have the exact answer off the top of your head, or weren’t there, you would be marked down a point off your grade in front of everyone. There was no room for fluff, or time to check your notes. It sounds strict, but hey…if I’m in a client meeting 10 years from now and haven’t done adequate preparation, there’d be a lot more severe consequences.
  • Master time management. On exams, if you dropped your pencil 1-60 seconds after the time is called, you lost 2 points off your test grade. 61-120 seconds later, it’d be -4. Working under pressure and time management are super important things to learn, so I’m certain the skills reinforced in this class will come in handy.
  • Be determined. With instructor-led review sessions before exams that often ran until 3am, I definitely learned the importance of determination. I also now know what it’s like to give something your all–attend TA office hours, spend days studying in Mann library–and get an outcome that’s not always 100% pleasing.
  • Put your cell phone away. If your cell phone was so much as seen at any point during class throughout the semester, it counted against your grade. Again, this is excellent preparation for the real world, where you have to be receptive to how interviewers, clients, or bosses will respond to technology. (For tech addicts like me, this one continues to be the most difficult to master.)
In sum, lots of people have told me that the point of college isn’t just to absorb academic material; it’s also where you learn how to think like an adult and develop a work ethic. I’d say that classes like this at Cornell exemplify this notion–while I might not always remember the Modigliani-Miller no-tax capital structure theorem off the bat, rigorous courses like AEM Finance instill in students practical skills that will last with them for a lifetime.

Being Furloughed!

When I decided to participate in the Cornell in Washington program, I knew that there were some inherent unknowns in a semester away from Ithaca–how the D.C. weather would be, what my classmates/co-residents would be like, and how I’d enjoy the program and my internship overall.

I gotta say, though, one thing that I did not question once before coming was the operating status of the federal government–I kinda just assumed, you know, that it would stay open and my internship at the Treasury wouldn’t be shut down until further notice.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened! Due to the United States federal government shutdown, many “non-essential” workers are forced to stay home while congress gets its act together, and can pass a budget to fund the government for the next year.

It’s ‘funny’ in a sense that, because so many people in the program are doing their (required) internships at government agencies, a lot of students don’t know what to do with themselves in the meantime. The CIW program is structured to allow for your entire day to be spent at your internship; classes are usually at nights and on one morning a week.

It’s affecting a bunch of people in the program;  a lot of my friends are interns at various agencies, and are stuck in “furlough” status. This includes people at:

  • The White House
  • The House of Representatives
  • The Department of Justice
  • The Department of the Treasury

It’s okay, though; D.C. has an abundance of parks, monuments and museums that we can spend the day at…right? Oh wait, those are closed too. Check out this sign I found, below right, while walking by a park yesterday.

This is definitely a ‘uniquely D.C.’  thing. Up in Ithaca, this might’ve been brought up in discussion in one of my classes, but to witness it firsthand–and feel the implications personally of a shutdown government (read: having to spend the day without much to do)–is a whole ‘nother story. It’s a bizarre feeling, watching the news and realizing it has extremely personal implications . For example, I didn’t know until midnight the night of the shutdown–once I saw CNN/Fox/NBC reporting it–that I was barred from interning the next day, and thus turned my alarm clock off (I likened it to my elementary school “snow day” procedure).

It’s been an interesting couple of days…