Category Archives: Spring 2009

Long Time, No Update!

I apologize if I had any of my dear readers worried that I had finally succumbed to Intermediate Micro! Nope, thankfully, I survived five finals, two days of packing, and one six-hour drive. I’ve been back in Maryland for about a week now, and I haven’t yet had too much time to reflect on my epic sophomore year. I’m not even completely done unpacking, much to my dad’s woe. Instead, I’ve been bouncing between all of the malls in the DC Metro area, trying to stock up on the “business formal” clothes I need for my job. I began work on Friday, looking sharp, of course. It’s been exciting, challenging, and overwhelming all at once!

Though my head is still spinning, sophomore year ended on quite the high note for me, academically and personally. I got another pleasant surprise of a GPA, though when I think back on how many late nights I fit into one semester, maybe it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. For all of the low points of this semester, I learned so much about picking the right classes and balancing extracurriculars. And Fall ’09 is looking very exciting! I’m thrilled to finally take a class with my beloved advisor (ILRLE 6480: Economic Analysis of the University), among several other cool ones. I should be able to choose a much more reasonable pace with my various jobs and Tradition responsibilities. I’m also looking forward to our housing plans: I’m living in an apartment off-campus with two of my closest friends! We’re seconds from the Arts Quad and a nice walk from my favorite pool. I can’t wait to have a real kitchen again. I plan to learn all of my parents’ cooking secrets this summer.

I will pop by periodically over the summer, but feel free to drop me a line any time, especially Cornell ’13 folks! Enjoy your time off of school, wherever you may be.

Slope Day Eve

I wrapped up my last class of sophomore year this afternoon! That whole halfway-done-with-college thing continues to freak me out, but remembering that I still have to pass my classes is another story entirely. For the epic turn of events that made April the best month of my life, this semester has been my most challenging; two jobs was one too many, and days when I got to bed before 1 a.m. were a rare treat. But now, I have a very, very exciting summer ahead of me, and this weekend, I get to pause and relax before finals.

Tomorrow’s plans should be a no-brainer since it’s Slope Day… but it’s a little more difficult when you a) don’t drink, b) do not like the Pussycat Dolls, and c) can’t stand large crowds of drunk people. Slope Day is observed on the last day of classes each Spring semester: Cornell converts Libe Slope into an outdoor concert space and invites a band to entertain us after a rough semester. Ultimately, it isn’t much more than a drinking holiday. Though billed as a day to enjoy the music, I don’t think that most people are still coherent enough to enjoy it by the time the band starts. This year’s act is the Pussycat Dolls, and I can’t say I’m a fan. As a classic rock lover, I have some minimum requirements for my favorite musicians, namely that they play instruments and sing. Neither can be said for the Pussycat Dolls, though I will admit that it’s impossible for the Slope Day Programming Board to please 20,000 Cornellians with one band. I don’t envy that task, especially since most people here wouldn’t be thrilled with my choice of Slope Day performer (two guesses.)

Slope Day is pretty much the only time of the year when I realize I’m in the minority for choosing not to drink. It’s not  as rare for a college kid as you might think. I have had zero trouble making friends who don’t drink, though I know it was a much easier process since I started Cornell with one of my very close and very sober friends from high school. We had no trouble finding people who didn’t drink: in a school of 13,000 undergrads, there’s no shortage of weekend activities, nor a shortage of people to do them with. My close friends include a fair share of teetotalists, moderate drinkers, and one big frat boy, but none of us ever feel pressure from each other. It’s all about being secure in your own choices and respecting other people’s decisions. And hopefully I’ll find something cool to do tomorrow!

Volunteering at Cornell

In response to a comment from a prospective student, I’d like to take some time to describe my experience, with a specific focus on the very busy April I have had with Cornell Tradition.

Last Saturday was the National Volunteer Week kick-off event, where I think I had the most fun I’ve had volunteering… ever? The weather was perfect, and since we were working alongside the gorge, the breeze was wonderful. Today, I just got back from Bowl for Kids’ Sake ’09, a fundraising bowl-a-thon to benefit BigBrothers BigSisters Ithaca. With my impressive 78, I might be the worst bowler in BFKS history… though I did beat President Obama’s score from last April.

Tradition’s prestige and financial benefits have made a huge difference in my life at Cornell, but I still have the desire to engage more with the fellowship. I have yet to really make a commitment to a community organization. I worry sometimes that my personal definition of public service doesn’t really fit into the Tradition mold; I see being a public servant as inextricably tied to my career, all about doing good research and passing the right laws. While I have generally enjoyed all of the events I have coordinated, I know I could be getting much more out of it if I found a long-term activity. I believe very deeply in Cornell’s public service mission, and Tradition has tremendous potential to be a vehicle for it. I am optimistic that I will be able to find a long-term and personally meaningful opportunity in the fall.

For now, though, it’s 87 degrees, and I’m inside! Time to get out of the library and play on Libe Slope.

#48: Have Dinner at a Professor’s House

Last night, my Labor Economics professor was kind enough to invite a few of us over to his home for dinner. I have nothing but wonderful memories of his class, a 17-person writing seminar in which we got to develop our own original research project and write it into a substantial term paper. With some luck, my paper will be published in The Visible Hand, Cornell’s undergraduate economics journal, later this semester. I learned the concepts inside and out, my classmates and I developed rapport so quickly in the small class setting, and I continue to pester this professor for advice whenever I have a difficult choice to make.

Accordingly, a lovely dinner to relive these great times was a welcome break from the rest of the week’s internship-related turmoil (may I never have a job search saga as difficult as this one!). As delicious as Cornell dining hall food generally is, it’s so easy to miss homecooked meals served on real plates with real silverware. Our professor’s wife happened to be an excellent cook, too. All in all, it was great food and great conversation. How could you ask for anything more?

When I returned to my room with an overflowing inbox and many missed calls from 202 numbers, I took a moment to cross #48 off my list. Hopefully these memories will get me through the rest of the week!

Eliot Was Right

April is crunch time for everyone. Today has been fairly typical of a busy (but very fun!) April day:

  • 9:00: Breakfast in Keeton House with Michelle et al.
  • 10:00: Meeting with my HR professor in Ives about my group’s term paper: interrupted by fire alarm.
  • 10:30: Arrive late to an interview for the new members of the Tradition Student Advisory Council. Five minutes into the interview, fire alarm goes off in Sage Hall.
  • 11:00: Run off to Collegetown to drop of my favorite heels for repair at Fontana’s Shoes. Cornell terrain is hard on all garments, and those particular heels were not designed for Libe Slope. While at the store, I fall in love with a new pair of shoes and buy them impulsively. I justify it to my bank account by my anticipated need for classy outfits for work this summer. Plus, these shoes were worth it.
  • 11:30: Catherwood Library generously provides lunch for its student employees in honor of Student Employment Week. Enjoy my pizza and run off to the Straight.
  • 12:15: Second lunch with Laura and my floormates from last year.
  • 1:00: Work at the Kheel Center.
  • 2:55: Varieties of American Dissent, this semester’s clear winner in the “favorite class” competition.
  • 4:30: Union Days 2009 keynote address! I can’t wait.
  • 6:00: Dinner, if time allows!
  • 7:30: Intro to Disability Studies
  • 9:45: Walk back to West, begin homework for the night.

ILRie Fridays

I love not having class on Friday as much as the next upperclassman, but this harmonious arrangement never seems to really be a “day off.” I’ll be up at 8:00 this Friday, hitting the gym before breakfast with my beloved Michelle. The next three hours will be shared between work for Research Assistantship #1 and arbitrating some serious drama at the fictional ABC Wire Company for my Collective Bargaining class. I’ll be meeting up with my Student Advisory Council subgroup right after, smoothing out the details for the very exciting National Volunteer Week Kick-Off event coming up soon. I may or may not have time for lunch before sitting down at Research Assistantship #2 and participating in an ILR Organizational Behavior study ($20!). Sometime before I head back to West to officially commence the weekend, I have two more volunteer groups to contact, a bunch of professors to e-mail about Fall ’09 courses, and one agonizing choice to make about a summer job before 5 p.m.

It’s not exactly the sleep-’til-three day that most people envision, but I will admit that it beats being cooped up in class, especially when the weather is so beautiful. Fridays give me a jump-start on getting organized for the weekend, so I wind up with a lot more time to enjoy with friends who weren’t quite as lucky with their schedules. Most ILRies get to enjoy a schedule without Friday classes by the end of sophomore year: we theorize that ILR plans it as such so students on the job market can travel for a Friday interview. As I discovered last week, my public service intentions probably won’t get me involved in any sort of travel for interview purposes. However, if this lifestyle for most ILRies means I get a bonus day in my week, I can’t complain.

The Art of the Phone Interview

I’ve done four interviews for summer jobs thus far, and three of them were conducted over the phone. I chalk up this arrangement to my interest in the public sector, which is generally not known for having loads of extra cash with which to conduct on-campus recruiting. Instead of rocking a suit around Ives Hall like my friends get to do, I usually conduct my interviews in my pajamas in my room, or, as the case was on Thursday, standing in the rain on the Ag quad.

I’d say they have all gone well, except for the one I unwisely scheduled for a few minutes after a demoralizing prelim. I’ve been able to express my interests, background, and experience pretty coherently, even mastering a cogent response to, “that sounds like quite an interesting major. Tell me more about it!”

Despite how many I have done this year and last year, I still find it disorienting to be able to hear someone but not see their gestures or expressions. Since I unashamedly talk with my hands, I also feel like I overcompensate for not being able to gesture or smile by – wish I were kidding – giggling! I’m actually quite professional and serious in person (sometimes too professional…) so hopefully it hasn’t cast any doubts about my qualifications.

Hopefully, I’ll have commited to a job by the middle of April, and then I can replace my phone interview attire with something a little more snazzy. I can honestly say that I would love to work in any of the organizations on my list, so I think it should be a great summer, even if I’m not yet the master of the phone interview.

Our Quad is Better than Yours

A very thoughtful post on the always excellent MetaEzra got me thinking of the Keith Olbermann/Ann Coulter Ivy League smackdown and what it means for daily life at Cornell in 2009. (Quick recap: Coulter insinuated that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, from which Olbermann received his degree in communications, was “Old MacDonald Cornell” and not “Ivy League Cornell.”) Though the faulty claims that bolstered Coulter’s misinformed argument have largely been debunked, the discussion over the source of this inter-school rivalry continues to rage over the alumni blogs, the Cornell Daily Sun, and, more often than not, my table at dinner.

My conclusion after all of these attempts at trying to understand is that the bigger source of rivalry, at least for current students, is perceived ease of major. It seems to be collinear with the endowed versus statutory question, but the unit most targeted for jokes, the Hotel School, is a very presitigious private unit. I think we tend to look down on the programs that appear easier, whether or not they actually are easier, and regardless of how the school is funded. I am in a major that is often on the receiving end of these comments, though they are easily refuted with informing the other party of how much I had to read last night.

As such, I think that the statutory vs. endowed issue is more relevant for  alums looking back on their years here. I recognize that my perspective may be different from the roughly 60% of ILRies who hail from New York State and grow up hearing that the statutory colleges are “the ones you’re going to get into.” I think a lot of these beliefs stem from outdated conceptions of what ILR does for New York State, which have changed dramatically as ILR’s orientation has expanded globally in the same direction of the economy it studies. Moreover, state funding has plummeted since the 70s, and it has been a long time since ILR was solely a training program for future union activists. I only get the “Why ILR? You’re not from Long Island!” reactions from older alums who still view the School as a ticket into law school for New Yorkers and not the multifaceted, interdisciplinary program that it is today.

To answer the question posed on MetaEzra about what life is like for an out-of-state student in a statutory college, I have to say that there is hardly a difference, and it’s certainly not a bad experience. If anything, we lack the insecurities and anxieties that can go along with being in a major that some people consider inferior. That is, if you let them distract you from the great Cornell education you’re getting in any of the seven colleges, regardless of who pays the bills.

Domestic Affairs

Every Thursday night is reserved for weekly reunion dinners with the ILRies I don’t get to see anymore. For a school as small as ILR, it’s actually quite possible to lose track of people when you don’t have classes with them. Accordingly, I dined with one of my dear friends from Stats and Labor Law, who caught us up with her exciting credit internship plans for junior year. It seems that everywhere I go, another ILRie tells me about their choice to go abroad or how they are brushing up on their German or spending a semester in Asia.

On the other hand, I have no plans to leave Ives Hall or even take a foreign language. Since my parents almost never take vacations, I’ve never been one for traveling. It took me eighteen years to get to Europe, and my motivation was a lot less cultural discovery than it was seeing the last show on the last Europe leg on the Magic tour. To date, I’ve only visited Spanish-speaking countries, one of which contains approximately 80% of my relatives. I haven’t exactly breached my “comfort zone,” and I have no interest in doing so. Does that make me a self-centered American? My usual excuse is that I want time to work on an honors thesis in senior year with no need to rush. The real answer is something more along the lines of having more courses I want to take than could fit into four years.

And besides, the world has a funny way of coming to Cornell: I went to see Sergio Farjado, former mayor of Medellín, Colombia, which was once considered the most dangerous city in the world. Farjado’s transformation of the city, with its heavy focus on participatory action and including historically marginalized groups, was freaking inspiring. I had to wonder if the same principles will work in our fragmented, pluralistic society, but I am sure that Farjado’s critics told him the same thing. One week later, I had an extended discussion with a State Department official at the Non-Profit and Government Career Fair: he told me that I seemed like an “international person” anyways, and that ILR fields are relevant in any country, especially during this recovery period for our image abroad.

As usual, no worries about this choice. I’m going to cherish the – yikes! – four complete semesters I have left.