Category Archives: Senior Year!

My Not-So-Final Word

For a few reasons, I’d been putting off my farewell entry as long as possible. I had a nutty-but-amazing senior week, the seven days between finals and graduation when Cornell sponsors all sorts of local fun: wine tours, river rafting, paintball, et cetera. It was exactly what my friends and I needed to mentally prepare to leave Cornell: I know I would have been a wreck if I finished my ethics exam on Friday and graduated the next day. Graduation was a lovely weekend but a tiring one, my (maybe) last act of volunteering for everything — I say “maybe” because I signed up for the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN), for whom I hope to begin conducting informational interviews with DC-area prospective Cornellians really soon! Check out all the videos and photos here — I lucked into prime placement for being photographed by carrying the ILR School’s banner, an honor that meant so much to me. Since I’ve been home, I’ve done the usual readjustment to Maryland life (sleeping in, TV-on-DVD, hanging out with my retired father), with some job search mixed in.

But the frame store called this morning to say my diploma was ready, and now it’s sitting on my bed waiting to be hung up. As my friends said many times during the graduation ceremonies, “this is happening.”

As noted in a recent entry, I’m still not too emotional about graduation, and I really haven’t taken a lot of time to reflect. One of my friends suspects that it’s not really going to hit him until it’s August and he’s not packing up to come back to Cornell. I think the same thing will happen to me, so the waterworks are going to come after my official blogging duties have ended. But hopefully I’ll look back to this entry to stop crying: perhaps I am okay because I know that graduation is in no way the end of my Cornell life, even if I won’t be back in Ithaca for a bit. (See that? Plans to return are already in the works.) I’m glad to have a solid network of Cornell friends in DC with me, I can’t wait to start meeting prospectives through CAAAN, and I’m totally crashing all future Cornell Alumni Leadership Conventions. Academically, I’ll stay in touch with my thesis advisor and second reader as I adapt my thesis for publication in journals; I have similar plans for a bunch of other papers I wrote this semester. And I have a feeling that, if I’m lucky, my career plans will bring me back to Cornell. I’ll miss the undergraduate lifestyle, but knowing that Cornell will always be a part of me makes the transition a lot less heartbreaking.

Accordingly, there will be no weepy reflections on my four years at Cornell until I’m at a reunion and it is encouraged, instead, a confident summary of changes. I’ve grown into a person I’m truly happy with and made some amazing friends along the way. I don’t think this growth and these experiences would have been possible anywhere else; Cornell is such a unique place and was really a perfect one for my seventeen-year-old self, with interests all over history and the social sciences, ready to leave Montgomery County (again, for a bit), and eager to build a life in college. I’m thrilled that everyone who helped me find my way at Cornell will still be a part of my life as long as I have a NetID and excuses to visit. And I fully intend for that to be a long, long time.

A final shout out to one of those people who helped me along the way: Lisa Cameron-Norfleet, who coordinates our blogging program. This blog gave me a forum for leading a thoughtful and self-reflexive (to borrow a term from our friends in the Anthro department) life at Cornell, which helped me get so much more out of my undergraduate years.  For the prospective students out there, the group I most wished to address, I hope this blog been educational and a helpful look into the ILR School. If my blog has taught you anything, the answer to your next question should be clear: yes, you should apply!

No Tears (Yet)

Today is the last day of class of my undergraduate career. Many of my friends reached this milestone last night during AMST 2001: The First American University, our beloved Cornell history class. We had an awesome semester proving the thesis that Cornell was the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. that truly embodied American ideals and democratic sentiments. Two excellent teachers, memorable stories, and a rap about Cornell from one of our classmates… the class exceeded my expectations. And I totally understand why fellow seniors would be misty-eyed from ending their Cornell careers on this class. On some level, we’ve all been internalizing thoughts on the marks we’ll leave on the world after Cornell. This class ended with an explicit mandate to graduate and make Cornell proud, or at least show people that we’re not all like Andy “I Went to Cornell, Ever Heard of It?” Cornell.

I haven’t gotten emotional yet, possibly because there’s an absurd amount of work between me and my diploma. My last class at Cornell will be my ethics seminar this afternoon, and I have to say I’ll be a little bit glad to say goodbye to Kant. My remaining work is all very personally meaningful, though. I’m proud that my last semester here has been spent working on topics that matter to me, and I’ve grown so much as a student that I can do them justice. April and May are dedicated to budget reconciliation in the Senate, whether health care is a right, a Springsteen song, labor unions and Obama’s health care reform efforts, Martin P. Catherwood (dean of ILR and namesake of our library), and my views on Obama’s first two years in office (spoiler alert: they are very favorable.) ILR, politics, social justice, and Bruce… that’s pretty much me in a nutshell. As usual, I have a lot to celebrate.

Eerily Full Circle, Part I

Monday, April 18 was probably the busiest day of my last semester here. I spent a good five hours helping out the ILR Undergraduate Admissions office with the last of Cornell Days, our series of events for admitted students. I love Cornell Days, even if it makes my calendar explode. On every open house day, our office coordinates a great series of receptions, discussions, and information sessions.  I’ve mentioned this here before, but my choice to come to Cornell was very much sealed by conversations with ILR students and faculty, so I’ve always tried to create those same experiences for the young people in the same shoes I was in c. 2007. Monday was the last Cornell Day (though, for the readers of this blog who might want to visit, we can still arrange all of that for you! 607-255-2222!). It often strikes me that I’m conducting the information session that made me want to come to Cornell in the first place.

But it was never more dramatic than Monday, when our information session was held in the same room as the first ever ILR class I attended: a section of ILRLE 2400: The Economics of Wages and Employment open to visitors during my first trip to Cornell. And there I was speaking at the front of the room! During that visit, I also distinctly remember reading a course description for an ILR writing seminar about Bruce Springsteen posted on a bulletin board in Ives. At that age, I had only been a Bruce fan for about a year, but I was pretty impressed that there was a major out there with those kind of offerings. On Monday after the admissions marathon, I got to see on that professor lecturing on Born in the U.S.A. I couldn’t help but think how much I’ve grown, from just thinking about Bruce’s place in American Studies to really engaging with that material. I’ve also grown from casual fan to certified crazy, but that’s another story… though, no lie, I’m sure it’s been helped along by knowing that my alma mater funds and encourages faculty members to study the guy. I’m expecting many more of these “full circle” moments in the next thirty-six days to graduation.

Final Countdown

These days, the senior class is often confronted with evidence of our impending graduation — buying Senior Week tickets (more on this later), the very creepy requirement that we measure our heads to size graduation caps — but nothing seemed more final than filling in my May calendar. It’s an annual ritual for me, realizing that I’m totally slammed at the end of the semester and then plotting the due dates. But this time, when I got to May 30, it  hit me that this is my last May 30 on campus, and that “home to Maryland” is really permanent…

Now it's real.
Now it's real.

50 days and one thesis to go!

Why I Need a Carrel…

Serious health hazard...
Serious health hazard...

… or an office, or any place to keep my books overnight, short of my gym locker. This cannot be good for my spine! Let’s hope I get a thesis draft finished by Friday and don’t have to carry all these books around anymore.

The Music Library Rocks

New Orleans Music

In less than two weeks, I’ll be in New Orleans for the conference of the United Association of Labor Educators. I’m presenting a paper I wrote in my labor history seminar last semester, also known as the toughest class I’ve taken at Cornell, along with ten or so other student scholarship winners. I can’t wait. To set my excitement to music, I walked over to the Sidney Cox Library in Lincoln Hall, the music building on the Arts Quad, and checked out as much music from the region as I could find. I spent the next hour copying CDs and reading liner notes (though I had told myself I’d be able to do work while putting the music in my computer… alas.) For someone who loves both music and libraries, I was kind of shocked that this was my first time checking out CDs in four years. I fully intend to spend a whole Saturday in the library expanding my collection. But for now, Professor Longhair and James Booker have earned a rightful place in my iTunes, and I’ll have so much to listen to on the plane!

On Not Panicking

It’s no secret that this C-SPAN enthusiast plans to return to DC next year to work in politics. After four fantastic DC internships, relevant coursework, and two of my own health care research endeavors, I’ve built a solid network and learned a good deal about social policy, and I have a lot of people giving me advice and tips. But that doesn’t change the fact that the places I want to work are still a few months away from knowing what jobs will be open in July when I can start working. Thus, I am one of many students right now without clear postgraduate plans.

As any senior can tell you, the first question we get after someone finds out it’s our last semester at Cornell is a variation of, “so what are you going to do next year?” The question has become a major pet peeve for a lot of people I know, and I can understand why it raises hackles. Even though I am well aware of the realities of my chosen industry, having to say, “not sure yet!” with a cute smile is getting kind of old, and it always makes me anxious that I’m not looking hard enough. I remind myself that signing onto a job now just to have one would close myself off from something I really want that won’t be open until May.

I’m this way about a lot of things in life: deliberative, selective, patient. Making a decision about my first real-life job should really be no different, but it’s so easy to get caught up in this rush to get hired. I think it seems like the natural end to getting into a great school, working hard, and doing well there; like we’re entitled to be sought after by employers months before we can start working. It certainly worked this way for plenty of my friends, who have signed onto companies that can forecast their hiring needs and have formal training programs in place for recent grads. Some of my friends even got job offers at the end of their junior summer internships, so they’ve known what they are doing for months now. But lots of my friends are in my shoes, in industries that don’t work that way and/or without the certainty that comes with going to graduate school. For many reasons, I want to shift gears and get some real Washington experience before starting (what will probably be) a JD/PhD in Political Science program.

I always thought of myself as a risk-adverse person, but one of my favorite professors recently pointed out that my tolerance for risk may surprise me, given the field I’ve chosen. So perhaps this is a new part of my personality to embrace, and let’s hope I can add some “not panicking” to that mix.  So when you see me on campus, it’s okay to ask me what I’m doing next year! Just maybe nod along when I tell you about what hiring for DC jobs is like and remind me to keep enjoying my last few months of Cornell.

A Quick Rundown

Since my only post this semester had to do with the weather, I think it’s time for a post that is a) more substantive, and b) adequately explains why I’ve been so busy. So here is a summary of my classes this semester, which are all awesome, but a little too challenging for a proper second-semester senior schedule. No lie: I recently attended a meeting where we all ended up comparing who was in the fewest “legitimate” academic credits. I think the record was six. I’m in sixteen, which seems pretty average for any other semester, but in my senior spring, everyone tells me it borders on excessive. But you readers can be the judge:
  • MUSIC 1312: History of Rock Music. Just as cool as it sounds. I’m viewing the entire class through my Springsteen-colored lens. It’s explained so much about his influences!
  • ILRLR 4880: Liberty and Justice for All. Intense seminar-sized course on major ethical theories and current issues. I’m hoping I have the guts to stick with it, but I’ll let you know when I finally get through the Aristotle chapter I’ve been trying to read just about all day.
  • GOVT 4112: The Politics of Change. A senior seminar about the first two years of the Obama administration. The content dovetails beautifully with my thesis on health care reform, and the professor’s interests are very cool — here’s a recent example from our friends at the Cornell Sun.
  • AMST 2001: The First American University. Shorthand for “history of Cornell,” it’s taught by two Cornell enthusiasts with solid historian chops. So many new tidbits of Cornell trivia… most definitely the subject of a future entry.
  • Four credits of thesis. Though, let’s be serious, I do way more than four credits of work for it. The good news is I’m still very interested in my topic and my writing is going well, but there still remain some tough concepts to untangle. And my overly-ambitious self-imposed first draft deadline (March 18) is really looming.

Putting this schedule together was challenging, as was last semester’s. I always have the hardest time figuring out just how tough I want a semester to be. Challenging classes are almost always the most rewarding, but how much do you really get out of them if you never have time to do the reading? As a senior, this trade-off comes with even more pressure, with all of your friends taking Intro to Wines, TA-ing for credit, and not starting class until the late afternoon. Sure, this may be my last semester to enjoy a laid-back college lifestyle, it’s also the last one I get as an undergraduate, and thus the last time I get to try out such interesting subjects in this kind of setting. Here’s hoping I got Spring ’11 right. The previous seven semesters all seemed to work out pretty well in the end, too!

A Would-be Snow Day

It seems that the snowstorm that is about to hit this part of the country very, very hard was enough to push the otherwise sedate National Weather Service to write a report that includes the phrase, “unleash its fury.” We’ve been back at school for a week now, and we’re all kind of bracing ourselves for fifteen to eighteen inches of snow. Something like a welcome back present, I guess. I’m still on campus tonight, and there’s no snow falling yet, but it’s clear the sky is about to do something. (“Unleash some fury,” I suppose!) I’m not anticipating catastrophe, because this area is generally very good about cleaning up after snow events, and there’s so much in walking distance that we’re not in real danger of being stranded. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have an always-prepared-and-on-top-of-stuff roommate: Long Island took us to Wegmans last night to restock our fridge. If any of our friends run out of food, they should know that we have endless supplies of hummus and an awful lot of ice cream for this point in the year.

Personally and selfishly, I really hope school is cancelled. Not for skipping class, as it’s way too early in the semester for me to need extra days to finish work. And I wouldn’t want to miss a Wednesday, because a favorite class meets then: GOVT 4112: The Politics of Change, a senior seminar on the first two years of the Obama administration. My desire for cancellation is more for the mythic status of a Cornell snow day. Cornell rarely closes for snow (more details in this article), so I’ve always wanted to be among the small group of Cornellians who can say they’ve ever had a snow day. I maintain that partial day closings don’t count, so the half-day we had off last fall was, to me, an insignificant aberration. The midday closings are annoyances to students but hugely hazardous to faculty and staff who have to drive to campus.  So if Cornell decides to close, I hope it’s early enough to keep people off the icy roads.

A sidenote on that Valentine’s Day closure in 2007: if I am recalling correctly, this same snowstorm left a few inches of ice in the Washington, DC area and closed schools for ten days. My hometown’s reaction to snow is a study in contrasts compared to Cornell: usually unfounded panic, a disorganized response, and BMWs with no snow tires spinning out everywhere. I hope no one tells Ed “Nation of Wusses” Rendell about us… he’d be proud of Ithaca.