"Cornell students dream bigger dreams."

--Frank H.T. Rhodes, Cornell University Commencement, May 28, 1995

Monday, December 29, 2014

22. Dave McKew

San Francisco, California · Arts and Sciences


dave.mckew@gmail.com
Twitter: twitter.com/backawayslowly
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dave.mckew

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I'm the operations manager at a small software/web development company, but my passion, ever since my Cornell SKITS-O-PHRENICS days, has been writing, performing, directing, and producing stage comedy.  In the last decade, as part of a sketch comedy duo with Colin Benoit '98 (and on my own) I've done hundreds of performances in San Francisco and at comedy festivals all over North America, and even had a short film air on Comedy Central. Colin and I also created a two-man play where the two of us played all 27 roles in the show.  But the greatest accomplishment of my life came in 2011-2012 when, via nutrition and exercise, I lost 112 pounds in 365 days.  I've been pretty good at keeping my life interesting, I suppose!

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

Psyschology of Visual Communications with James Maas and 16mm Filmmaking with Marilyn Rivchin.  Maas' seminar was basically a photography class about designing effective pictures. Rivchin's class was whatever you made of it—I used it to learn storytelling.  Both classes taught me a lot about patience and connecting to an audience.

What extracurricular activity or hobby from your time at Cornell was the most meaningful?

No question that it was my three years as a charter member of the Cornell SKITS-O-PHRENICS, the now 22-year-old sketch comedy troupe!  It was during this time that I found my passion and realized that I was, first and foremost, a story-teller.  I learned a lot about teamwork, self-expression, group dynamics, compromise, and censorship... plus the really important stuff like how to eat a stick of butter on stage and where to get the best cheap plus-size dresses in Ithaca.

What random or surprising encounters with Cornell or Cornellians have you experienced since you left?

My Cornell nickname was "Madonna Dave."  Twice in the last decade, I've bumped into old classmates from freshman year who happened to ask me what I was up to WHILE I WAS HEADING TO A MADONNA CONCERT (via train/plane) and I had to sheepishly admit it.  "Some things never change," they said!  I swear, it's not the only thing I do, but I have seen 17 Madonna concerts. Another small world story: I did a show in SF a few months ago with a woman who, like me, lived in 227 Risley - many years after I did!

Monday, December 22, 2014

23. Niraj Shah

Boston, Massachusetts · Engineering


Twitter: twitter.com/nshah10

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I live in Boston with my family (we have two kids, ages 10 and 8) and am one of the co-founders of Wayfair, which is a leading online retailer of home goods. I have been in Boston for about 20 years now and I now think of it as home!

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

The most useful class was the Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise class taught by Professor David BenDaniel in the Johnson School. The reason for this is that it led to Steve Conine and myself starting our first company together right after graduation in 1995. That company, Spinners, was based on the business plan which we wrote for that class as our class project.

Which Cornell classmates do you keep in touch with?

I keep in touch with a few but most closely with Steve Conine and Mike O'Hara, both Engineering '95. Steve, Mike and I have worked together for a long time. Steve and I are the co-founders of Wayfair which we started in 2002 and it is the third company we started together.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

I would encourage that student to take advantage of all that the college offers—all types of classes, meet all types of people, all types of activities. The broad diversity is an amazing thing and I think students may not often take full advantage.

Monday, December 15, 2014

24. Andrew Tsang

Hong Kong · Engineering


atsang@rocketmail.com

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

My Cornell engineering training allows me to juggle and optimize my time spent in work, family, and leisure. 

I work in an Asia regional management role that requires 2-3 business trips to Southeast Asian countries per month. Luckily each trip lasts 2-3 days and I can still enjoy business class flights until the next cost cut.

I am married to a Cornellian in the same class with 2 boys. My elder son plays violin while the younger one plays cello. I try my very best to coach them properly; otherwise my living room will be filled with screeching noise instead of pacifying music.

Lastly, I must give thanks to God for all of the above. I am a church council member, play clarinet and cello at worship times, and occasionally organize music concerts at church.


What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

My favorite class at Cornell was Information Theory. It was a graduate class at that time but I took it as an undergraduate student (yet able to get an "A"). Cornell is so famous in the theoretical space, compared to, say, MIT being famous in the practical space, and this class exemplifies this strong area of the university. I enjoyed it a lot, and yes, I did go to MIT for a master's degree in Business Administration. However, I still find Cornell's theoretical strength carries more charm!

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

One of my favorite moments at Cornell was being the President of the Hong Kong Student Association. A major event of the year was to organize a cultural show to promote what Hong Kong was like to the Cornell community. There was singing, dancing, drama, slide shows, and certainly a lot of fun. Most importantly, it highlights the diversity and harmony of sub-cultures within Cornell. An event lasts an hour or two, but cross cultural friendships last forever.

How has your time at Cornell influenced you since you graduated?

Living in Ithaca to me, someone who grew up in a metropolitan city like Hong Kong, was like living in a different planet. But I liked it! There were many beauties of nature, the Cayuga Lakes, the snow, the small but close community, etc. that cities like New York or Hong Kong could not offer. I learned to appreciate different environments. I learned to be more patient. I learned to enjoy life in more ways.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

25. Paul Terranova

Austin, Texas · Engineering


p_terranova@hotmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paul.terranova.37
http://grandkonaslam2012.wordpress.com/

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.
Been living in Austin, Texas with my fantastic wife of 10 years, Meredith, and our 2 German shorthaired pointers, Flyer and Shiloh.  When we are not trail running, cycling, swimming, or traveling to events involving such fun, Meredith is a sports dietician and I'm a consultant helping deliver transportation projects.  I also serve as a CAAAN volunteer for prospective Cornell students in the Austin area!

What extracurricular activity or hobby from your time at Cornell was the most meaningful?

Definitely my 4 years as a lightweight rower and Army ROTC.  The discipline, sacrifice, and hard work set the stage for a budding semi-professional career as an ultra trail runner later in life.  No excuses, do the work.  

Which Cornell classmates do you keep in touch with?

Most of my current close Cornell connections are through rowing, Army ROTC, and the best-man at my wedding Kevin Yelenik '95!

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2015?

Showing my wife Meredith (a native Texan) around campus for the first time!

Monday, December 1, 2014

26. Abra Perrie

Every few weeks, Cornell '95 Faces features a profile of one of our class officers. This week, meet one of the class correspondents.

North Wales, Pennsylvania · Engineering 

Name at Cornell
Abra Benson

abrabenson@yahoo.com

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.


I recently moved back to the Philadelphia area and am a stay-at-home mom to Leah, 4, and Flynn, 2. Prior to children, I worked in the airline industry for 6 years post MS, and later, after a Cornell(!) MBA, in pharmaceutical market research for 6 years. While I do miss aspects of professional life and having days that involve much less cleaning of others, I have never had better bosses.    

What are your duties as class officer and what have you enjoyed about the job?
As one of the Class Correspondents, I am in touch with everyone!  I've written our Class Notes column for almost 15 years, and I love hearing from classmates.  he Class of 1995 is very important to me. It gives me great joy to learn what people are up to as we go through our life journeys together. I feel more connected to my peers and a little more comfortable about what's going on in my on life. You are my touchstone.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?
You are being taught by leaders in their fields, experts in their specialties, and the best professors out there. Pay attention in class.  Pay a lot of attention in class. It will help you learn the material better and make studying for exams much easier. You only have a short time to be in this exceptional environment. Don't chat with your friends, sleep, or stare at your phone. Be present in class. Soak it in and make the most of the lecture.  

If you could change anything about your Cornell experience, what would it be?

I had a wonderful time at Cornell and was involved in a variety of school activities, but sometimes I wish I had gone down more rabbit holes. I wish I had pushed myself into more college life adventures. I should have volunteered for some of the random psych experiments advertised on Uris boards or posed nude for painting classes. I wish I had tried sorority life and gone to more fraternity parties. I should have participated in Cornell Concert Commission, the Cornell Concert band, and Semester at Sea. I wish I had more time for everything! 

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2015?

Everything!!  I can't wait to breathe the Ithaca air, stroll by gorges and lakes, walk uphill everywhere, sleep in a dorm room, eat at Collegetown Bagel, and, of course, be surrounded by my fellow Cornellians, especially those from 1995. Over the course of our past reunions, I've developed a fun group of friends who have basically become my reunion dates. They make my experience extra fun, and I am definitely looking forward to another reunion with them (you know who you are, so you better show up!). Also, I am both looking forward to and dreading seeing the changes to my beloved campus. Change can be hard to take, whether it's good or bad, especially when it happens to a place you love. I already miss you, Ruloff's.

Monday, November 24, 2014

27. Leigh Ellen Baca

Manassas, Virginia · Arts and Sciences

Name at Cornell
Leigh Ellen Alford

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leighellen.baca

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.


I have been an at-home mother for the past 5 years. My husband, Michael, and I have been married for 15 years and are raising two wonderful children. My son is 5 and my daughter has just turned 3. I also serve as a Deacon and as chair of the mission ministry team at my church in Manassas. Before kids, I tried on several careers. I studied oceanography in graduate school, worked in poultry feed research, and was an assistant research scientist at a pharmaceutical company before I left science in favor of fostering family connections.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

There were many which inspired my life's journey, but I think Functional Morphology with Dr. McLearn was my absolute favorite. We dissected almost everything in the animal kingdom (OK - maybe not everything), and it really cemented my love of life sciences. Functional Morphology was my "OH - This totally makes sense!" class. It was a bouncing off point that led me deeper into ecology and marine sciences. In addition to the academic challenges, the course fostered teamwork and collaborative learning, which are skills that have served me well since leaving CU.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

My favorite memory of Cornell is from the blizzard of 1993. I lived in Balch and most of my friends lived in Cascadilla. A 'search team' of a couple friends made it up to North Campus to trapse back across campus with me so we could all go half crazy in the snow together.

And the meals! So many fun times were shared in the dining halls from Freshman year until we graduated.


What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

My advice to anyone starting Cornell, or any university, is to stick it out. Everyone struggles with the changes in the first semester, and it is far too easy to give up and go home. My parents were wise enough to have me stay beyond my "please bring me home" panic. By the end of my freshman year, I couldn't imagine anyplace else. And be sure to enjoy the beauty of Ithaca! There is so much to do and see beyond the campus.

Monday, November 17, 2014

28. Vu Nguyen

Portland, Oregon · Engineering


Name at Cornell

Dominic Vu Nguyen

VUNGUYEN7773@GMAIL.COM
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vunguyen7773

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I am married to Lee Murashige ('98) since 2004.  We have 2 great
kids, ages 3 and 6.  Since graduating from Cornell I've worked at Intel Corporation in various process integration and yield engineering roles.  More recently I've moved into technical supply chain management.  I'm proud to say I've been part of the microprocessor evolution for the past ~20 years.  When I started at Intel in 1995, we were making Pentium 90 MHz microchips.  Fast forward ~20 years and Intel now is featuring Core I7 3.9 GHz microchips.  Just a little faster, I'd say.

Additionally as a hobby, I have an online Fit Club where I help my friends, family, and colleagues stay healthy and fit.  I hold regular stadium cross-training workouts for my fellow desk jockeys and have gotten into doing obstacle races like Tough Mudder.  Please visit my Health and Fitness Facebook Community Page:  https://www.facebook.com/coachvu4u


Which Cornell classmates do you keep in touch with?

With Facebook quite a few!  In the past year or so I have seen  John Heitzman ('95), Andy Yang ('95), Anja Preylowski ('95), Mark Notarfrancesco ('95), Jonathon Barber ('96), Brian Montalto ('94), Jennifer Kim Um ('95).  I hope to see more at the Reunion!

What extracurricular activity or hobby from your time at Cornell was the most meaningful?

In my Junior year I started taking Tae Kwon Do as an elective.  I continued that post college to eventually get my 1st and 2nd degree blackbelt.  I made so many friends that I still keep in contact with from this TKD club.  I also learned a lot about balancing school work with staying healthy and active.  

What random or surprising encounters with Cornell or Cornellians have you experienced since you left?

I met my wife Lee (Cornell '98) shortly after she graduated from Cornell and started working at Intel.  There was a fire drill and all the employees reported to the Cafe area.  There I was introduced to Lee by my friend Mark Notarfrancesco's (Cornell '95) girlfriend/future wife Kelly.  We found out that we both had the same major and graduated 3 years apart.  The rest is history!

Monday, November 10, 2014

29. Michelle Knudsen

Brooklyn, New York · Arts and Sciences


Name at Cornell

Michelle (Mikki) Knudsen


michelle.knudsen@gmail.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/michelleknudsen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michelleknudsen.author

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I'm the author of more than 40 books for children and teenagers, including the New York Times best-selling picture book LIBRARY LION. My newest book (September 2014) is the young adult novel EVIL LIBRARIAN—a funny, creepy, paranormal, musical-theater-horror-romance adventure, about which Kirkus said, “The spirit of Buffy is alive and kicking in this bloody debut for teens ... snappily narrated, tightly plotted and generally just right.” I also do some freelance editing and teach occasional writing classes.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

I have very fond memories of many of my English seminars, especially the smaller ones that involved strange and interesting books I never would have come across on  my own. I learned a lot from both the essays and the class discussions. The English program in general was wonderful, and helped prepare me for my work as an editor and writer and for going on to get my MFA several years later.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

Take advantage of as much of what Cornell has to offer as you can! It can be a little daunting at the start, but the more involved you are with both your classes and your extracurriculars, the more people you'll connect with and the more supported and fulfilled you'll feel throughout your Cornell experience. Also, invest in a really good pair of winter boots. I *still* have the boots I bought the summer before my freshman year (in 1991!) and they made walking across those icy bridges in the winter a lot less scary. :)

What extracurricular activity or hobby from your time at Cornell was the most meaningful?

Definitely all the student-run and community theater! My closest friends from Cornell were (and still are) those I met doing shows with Risley, Gateway, and the Cornell Savoyards.

Monday, November 3, 2014

30. Brian Smith

St. Louis, Missouri · Human Ecology


brian.j.smith278@gmail.com

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

After being diagnosed with Type I Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy in 2010, and ultimately unable to continue working, I am now a full-time stay-at-home dad and volunteer in my daughter’s first-grade classroom. Type I Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy is a degenerative neuromuscular disease.  It impacts all muscles–smooth and skeletal–and all systems in the body.  There is no treatment and no cure.  This is a relatively new disease and the research is still in the early stages.  My wife and I, along with other family and friends, have been become members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (www.mda.org) and actively participate in fund raising, support group development and awareness programs in the St. Louis, Missouri area.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

For me, Ithaca was mountain bike trails and East Shore Sailing on Shore Road.  

Midway through senior week, my father (may he rest in peace) arrived in Ithaca to spend some time and enjoy the campus.  We decided to get on our bikes and just ride.  Four hours later, we found ourselves in the parking lot of East Shore Sailing, renting a boat.  And, while the sailing and the grueling bike ride back up Gun Hill road were fun, the perfect way to end the day was over cold beers and hot pizza at The Nines.


What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

Four years at Cornell is about so much more than academics and earning good grades.  College is just as much a social learning experience as an academic one.  Leaning to live and interact with people from many different backgrounds will provide you with life-long lessons that will serve you well in life after college, both personally and professionally. Whether you are more inclined to a faculty-sponsored wine and cheese, a fraternity party, or the bar scene in Collegetown, it is vitally important to include this social component as part your Cornell experience (just don’t forget to study as well).

How has your time at Cornell influenced you since you graduated?

The top-notch education you receive at Cornell means little in the real world.  In both the academic and professional arena, it is the name, prestige and reputation of Cornell University which enables one to get ahead.  On more than one occasion, I was told by recruiters and potential employers that I was invited in for an interview, and sometimes eventually hired, because I went to Cornell.  All other things being equal, and competing against many other similarly qualified candidates, the fact that I went to Cornell set me apart and gave me that special edge over the competition.

Monday, October 27, 2014

31. Andrea Forgacs

Montreal, Canada · Arts and Sciences


andreaforgacs@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrea.forgacs.75

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I've been living in Montreal, Canada for the past three years with
my husband, son (9), and daughter (6) and now a third one on the way, due March 1! My husband and I met in Cambodia during a backpacking trip after I finished grad school. He's French, and before Montreal, we spent almost 10 years in France. That's where I got into the travel industry, working for a travel management company in Paris and then for a hotel chain in London. Here in Montreal, I am a marketing strategist for a loyalty marketing company that has its roots in the travel sector.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

Junior and senior year, I lived in an off-campus house with nine amazing women, whom I still count among my closest friends today. The list of experiences we shared (and continue to share) goes on and on, and they're definitely among my fondest memories of my time at Cornell. Other favorite moments include working in the Browsing Library and sneaking into Okenshield's, locking myself up in the stacks to write my papers, after-hours at a certain fraternity, the summer I spent in Ithaca and of course, the gorgeous gorges.

What random or surprising encounters with Cornell or Cornellians have you experienced since you left?

When I was living in Paris, my advisor, David Grossvogel came to spend a semester there. Together with the local Cornell Club, I got to host him for a dinner at my house... nearly 10 years after we parted ways. Not only was I honored to welcome him into my home, I also met a great group of fellow alumni, some of whom I'm still in touch with.

What does being a Cornell alumnus mean to you?
It's hard to articulate this one... I am incredibly proud of being part of the Cornell family and still feel very connected to the School. Part of the reason for this is that my Cornell crew are among my best friends in the world, even after all these years. I've returned to Ithaca many times since graduation, and even took a family vacation there one summer when I was still living in Europe (is it ever too early to start the college visits?). Not-so-secretly, I hope at least one, if not all of my children end up studying at Cornell!

Monday, October 20, 2014

32. Denys T. Lau

Washington, DC · Arts and Sciences


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.
I am Deputy Director of the Division of Health Care Statistics at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the Nation's principal health statistics agency. I have an adjunct associate professor appointment at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), College of Pharmacy, where I was full-time associate professor before joining the CDC.   I am on the editorial board of the American Journal of Public Health, the official peer-review publication of the American Public Health Association. A former NIH-funded investigator, I published over 50 peer-reviewed publications and research reports examining quality and safety of health services use in older adults. I have a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a B.A. with distinction from Cornell University. I completed a Pfizer post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and finished a certificate program in management at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.  

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

My favorite memories at Cornell were when I was living at the Holland International Living Center (ILC) then in north campus Low-Rise 8.  This was the premier residential college for students from all over world and those interested in learning about world cultural, political, economic and social issues. We celebrated our microcosm of diversity through potlucks, theme parties, outings, and just hanging out with each other in community lounges. After all these years, I remain in close contact with many fellow ILC'ers who are now living all over the world; well Facebook also helps.  

How has your time at Cornell influenced you since you graduated?

During the first semester of my junior year, I did the Cornell-in-Washington program, which solidified my decision to choose public health as my career. Under the guidance of Dr. Steven Jackson, the former Associate Director, I conducted a study evaluating the DC Needle Exchange Program, a groundbreaking initiative aimed to curb HIV transmission among injection drug users. I also interned at the U.S. Conference on Mayors where I helped track the legislation of President Clinton's health care reform bill and studied its relevance to local municipalities.  The highlight for me was meeting Hillary Clinton and Donna Shalala at congressional hearings.

If you could change anything about your Cornell experience, what would it be?

I wish I explored more what Ithaca had to offer when I was a student.  A recent report from The American Institute of Economic Research - published in the Business Insider - has ranked Ithaca the #1 college town in the U.S. based on the academic environment, quality of life, and professional opportunity.  I loved hanging out in Collegetown, the Commons, its numerous gorges, Collegetown, Moosewood, and Stella, just to name a few of my favorite things about Ithaca.

Monday, October 13, 2014

33. Kevin Yelenik

Stavanger, Norway · Agriculture and Life Sciences


kyelenik@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevin.yelenik

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I am a father of two wonderful boys soon to be 8 and 5. It leaves
me once-in-a-while proud, usually humbled, constantly learning and amazed, but mostly quite tired. I lucked out and found the most beautiful life-partner I could ever have dreamed of. She did drag me to Norway to grow old though, and things are really hard here with the world's highest quality of life. I teach Physics at the International School, and this is very fun. It doesn't have much to do with what I studied at Cornell, but neither have most of my other strange teaching and engineering jobs I've had. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, skiing of all kinds, snowboarding, traveling, collecting music, and lately attempting to play the guitar again. Nathalia thinks I am having a mid-life crisis with this hobby, but I plan to be a rock star by 50.

How has your time at Cornell influenced you since you graduated?
Cornell taught me how to work hard, how to start thinking deeply and critically, and certainly how it feels to be humbled. It prepared me well for my MS from another CU - Colorado, Boulder, and thus for my careers in both engineering and teaching. 

Cornell also taught me how to be more independent and more mature. I think I grew up a lot in those years; they left me with a sort of heady, mystical once-in-a-lifetime experience that could never be relived. 

Cornell also taught me how to speed-walk/wheeze/sweat my way up hills when late to classes.  


What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

Being surrounded by a truly spectacular academic atmosphere, living in the coolest little city ever, hanging out with friends at places like the Chapter House, swimming in the waterfalls, exploring the nature, seeing lots of live music, and chilling out on our terrace on East Seneca St.  

What does being a Cornell alumnus mean to you?

It means that I spent a good part of four years wandering around a beautiful campus and town filled with lots of intelligent, interesting, and creative people - and I tried to learn stuff from them.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

34. Leslie Nicholson

Toronto, Canada · Arts and Sciences


Name at Cornell

Leslie Davis

davisles@rogers.com

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I live in Toronto with my husband and three daughters.  We moved here ten years ago from New York , and now I cannot imagine living anywhere else.  Canadians often ask me how I manage the winters when they find out I am originally from Atlanta and I tell them that four years in Ithaca more than prepared me for this!

 After my third child was born, I chose to step down from full time work in financial services, and accepted the opportunity to become a partner in a small giftware company, Signature Keepsakes.  The majority of our customers are brides and grooms.  Most of the brides are lovely, but our customer service department could tell you stories about some real life Bridezillas out there!  In my free time, I ski with my family, jog with friends, and volunteer as a board member of a children's charity.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

The class that I enjoyed the most at Cornell was Close Relationships Across the Lifespan (Professor Cindy Hazan, Human Ecology).  Professor Hazan's teachings and research still resonate as my relationships mature with Cornell friends, with my husband and children, and with my parents.  The most useful classes turned out to be French.  Who knew that I would move to Canada and my kids would learn French from age five?  My seven year old is already correcting my pronunciation!

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

Of my many memorable Cornell experiences, ones that stand out are Fun in the Sun on the Arts Quad each fall, spending the summer at Cornell in '93, semester abroad in Paris, and of course wines class.  A rite of passage for Cornell students, it felt like a long, long wait before I was able to take wines in the spring of my senior year.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

Since stepping onto campus freshman year, I have been in awe of the intelligence and drive of our Cornell classmates.  I would want to tell the incoming class of students that they will be surrounded by the most impressive group of people they may ever meet, and to let themselves be inspired by those who surround them.

Monday, September 29, 2014

35. Sheryn Baxter

Denver, Colorado · Engineering

sjb2@cornell.edu

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I am a telecommunications professional, wife and mother.  My mind and heart are full, although my house is a mess.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

Spanish - it was a respite from Engineering and now I can talk to my mother-in-law.  Linear Algebra - it was a mental discipline similar to what I do today.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

Looking upon the lights of Ithaca (from the Blue Light bus); swimming in the falls; laughing with student and local friends...

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

Be kind to yourself and persist in finding what enriches your life and others.

If you could change anything about your Cornell experience, what would it be?
They say not to take yourself seriously.  I get that now.  I would experience Cornell with a lightness in my mind, heart and soul.

Monday, September 22, 2014

36. Carla Bravo

Dallas, Texas · Agriculture and Life Sciences


carlamariabravo@gmail.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/carlamariabravo


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I am a wife and mother of two little girls—2 and 3 years old. We live in Dallas, Texas, and I work for Lucchese, bootmakers since 1883, in an operations role. I love my job, love Texas, and plan to make this our permanent home.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

Wines! Wasn't that everyone's favorite?

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

Friends, spending hours at the cafeteria for dinner, slope days. How tough it was but at the same time rewarding and enriching. Wouldn't change it for the world, Cornell is a place that will always be special to me.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

Work and play hard, don't lose perspective of why you're there. You are surrounded by talented people, however don't be intimidated, you are as smart and talented as everyone else. Make the most of this stimulating environment, won't always be like that once you leave Cornell.

Monday, September 15, 2014

37. Mayank Thanawala

San Jose, California · Engineering


mthanawala@gmail.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/mayankthanawala
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/mthanawala

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.


If you could paint a picture of the American dream, you'd have my life.  I have a wonderful career in software engineering, a beautiful and talented wife, an adorable and rambunctious 10-month-old son, and a charming house around the corner from neighborhood shops and restaurants.

Some highlights:

I met my wife in a running group, and got her attention by inviting her to go flying with me!

I have sung in an a cappella group called Hookslide for the last 15 years.  We've opened for Kool and the Gang, Tower of Power, and, recently, Joan Rivers. Before Hookslide, I had several failed attempts to join groups, including one called Rolls Voyce.

I got my pilot's license in 2005, and am slowly working on becoming an instructor.

I was employee #2 with my current company, HealthLoop - we connect patients to their doctors between visits via a secure web-based app.


What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

I don't remember the  name of the class, but part of it was programming computers to control lab instruments using Assembly language.  It gave me a foundation to understand the connection between programming and what's happening internally in a computer. As languages become more advanced, that link becomes harder to discern on one's own.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?
Enjoy the whole experience.  Cornell is not just about the education you receive in the classroom, though that is top-notch.  Cornell offers a chance to pursue just about anything you're interested.  So, join clubs, go hiking, take day trips, take chances.

Also, no matter what anyone tells you, your career is NOT more important than your personal connections.


If you could change anything about your Cornell experience, what would it be?

I wish I could have had a better idea of what my values, likes and dislikes were when I was in college.  Turns out, I love being outdoors, eating organic mostly vegetarian food, and doing the singer-songwriter thing with my guitar. I can't think of a better place to do all that than Ithaca! But I did way too little of it when I was at Cornell.

Monday, September 8, 2014

38. Njemile Davis and Surayya Diggs

To celebrate the beginning of the school year, this week we're running a special profile of a member of the class of 1995 and her daughter, a member of the class of 2017! 

New York City and Ithaca, New York · Human Ecology and Agriculture and Life Sciences 


njemiledavis@yahoo.com
Twitter:   www.twitter.com/cutiepahtootie
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/njemile.davis

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

Njemile:
I'm currently working at a national social justice organization, supporting fair and affordable housing programs in 32 cities across the country. Now that Surayya's at Cornell, I'm finding a little more time to both indulge my interests and explore some new ones including sewing

Tell us about your experience at Cornell

Surayya:
Cornell was definitely tough at first, but now I love it. And actually miss it after only being away for 3 weeks [in June]. Cornell is an amazing place and I am so excited to be attending my mother's alma mater.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?
Njemile:
I have so many fond memories of my time at Cornell! My favorite is walking through the arts quad for the first time. It was night so hardly anyone was out except my host and I. The trees were beautifully canopied, the lights twinkling and a divine hush had surrounded us. I never considered another school after that! I was head over heels in love.

What has been your favorite class so far?

Surayya:
Definitely my first year writing seminar in the Africana department. The class is titled Terror in Black Memoir and we were able to read and discuss the titles 12 Years a Slave, The Black Notebooks by Toi Derricott, The Fire Next Time, and excerpts from Audre Lorde's work. This class was the first class I had ever had taught by a black female teacher. In my whole life. And it definitely shaped the direction of our discussions. It is probably also one of the most diverse groups of students on campus in terms of race.

Which Cornell classmates do you keep in touch with?
Njemile:
I've been able to keep in touch and reconnect with soo many 95'rs thanks to Facebook. I've also been able to spend quality time with Danetria Craig, Hugh LaRoche, Avery Seawright, Kevin Minter, Davenel Denis, Janelle Green, Kentayahnee Murray, Lauren Davidson, Tamara Webb, Thais Jimenez, Denise Anderson, Vicki Meyers, Donna Holder, Roy Clovis, Frantz Cayo, Jabari and Anika Osaze, Jonel Daphnis, Rich Medina and Baye Adolfo Wilson... and more... all of whom I can wholeheartedly say are doing it well! Our network gets bigger and stronger every year, so I'm hoping everyone will come to reunion!

Do you participate in any extracurricular activities or clubs on campus?
Surayya:
Yes. I am the logistics chair of the Women of Color Coalition, where my responsibility is providing direction for the organization and keeping everyone on task. I am also the political chair for Black Students United. For the upcoming year I plan on producing a video PSA on the Africana library and how it is so decentralized from campus. This will be a small step in my bigger goal (or rather dream) of having a new Africana library built in a more central part of campus. I also work for the Public Service Center - last fall I tutored high school students.

What extracurricular activity or hobby from your time at Cornell was the most meaningful?

Njemile:
It was a privilege to be a founding member of Pamajoa Ni gospel ensemble and I'm thrilled that it continues to this day.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this fall?
Surayya:
Definitely have patience and reflect a lot. And don't hesitate to ask for help (academically or emotionally) when you need it. Also take any and every opportunity that comes your way! You never know where it may lead or what doors it might open. Also apply and starting looking for internships in the beginning of spring semester, don't wait to the last minute. I found my internship in China in March and I am having an amazing experience.

What are you most looking forward to during your sophomore year?
Surayya:
I am most interested in growing more as a student and a community member. I am excited to do great work for the women of color coalition and BSU.




Monday, September 1, 2014

39. Andrew Lewis Conn

Brooklyn, New York · Arts & Sciences


connandrew@aol.com
andrewlewisconn.com

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.
Since graduating from Cornell in 1995, I returned to Brooklyn and
Photo credit: Nicolas Maloof
got to see the borough of my birth, the Old Country, become magically transformed. I’ve published two novels, 
P (Soft Skull Press, 2003), and, this summer, O, Africa! (Hogarth/Crown). I’ve made my daily bread working in public relations and corporate communications. I married an amazing woman from Scotland, and have gotten the chance to see America and New York through the eyes of another culture. And, four years ago, we had a daughter, Alyth (named after a Scottish town), who is not the world’s least adorable, fun, or remarkable person.


Which Cornell classmates do you keep in touch with? 

Anita King (’95), Bryan Wizemann (’95), Christopher Goffard (’94), David Kartch (’94), Durand Williams (’95), Erica Schoemacher (’94), Gabriella Aratow (’96), Huy Dao (’97), Jaime Villamarin (’94), Jason Lee (’93), Luke Wilcox (’96), Michael Gurton (’97), Philip Kang (’96), Rika Wilcox (’98), Sarah Jensen (’95), Trac Vu (’96), . . . and, er, my sister: Jennifer Conn (’92).

If you could change anything about your Cornell experience, what would it be?

I perhaps would not have been so serious, or self-serious, or quite so hardworking (!). But, then, you’re wired the way you’re wired. (And, as that great Dylan song put it, “I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now.”)

What does being a Cornell alumnus mean to you?

The place, and that time of life, continues to become more magical and idealized in retrospect. (Part of this, I think, is that Cornell looks in many ways like what a Platonic conception of academic life should resemble.) I just love the place, and have a fever dream about being back every three or four months or so. I’m just enormously grateful for having been there, for that time of my life.

Monday, August 25, 2014

40. Niles Donegan

Lyme, New Hampshire · Arts and Sciences


Niles.Donegan@Dartmouth.edu


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.
I’m a microbiologist who works on Staphylococcus aureus virulence at Dartmouth.  I earned my Ph.D. at Dartmouth, and stayed to be a research associate, as well as start a biotech called Saureus, which is developing an assay for rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases.  Outside lab, I live just north of Hanover with my wife Rachel and daughter Maeve in a classical New England town called Lyme.  We walk with Maeve to school every day, and at night Maeve and I sing Cornell's “Evening Song” as one of her bedtime songs.  She doesn’t understand “’Tis an echo from the walls...”, but maybe one day she’ll find out for herself.  My wife works at a science museum, where she’s been introducing the modern tinkering and maker ethic to kids and grownups.  We're both enthusiastic about the maker movement and science, which I’m sure means social doom for Maeve when she grows up.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

"Ancient Art in Context” absolutely demanded critical thinking and skepticism. After studying Egyptian tombs and pottery, we were set loose on “Chariots of the Gods” and other flim-flammery.  While it wasn’t a seminar with Sagan, it was my first experience at Cornell on how to think critically.
A year of Orgo (Chem359-360-301) was the most useful, as professors Carpenter, Frechet, and Wilcox treated us as young scientists, and hated pre-meds.  We had great assignments, like doing espionage to reverse-engineer perfume scents. By the end, I had a rhythmic feel for how electrons moved in a reaction (a feeling long gone).


What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

I remember that my roommate Jon and I figured out how to get tons of free stuff in the mail by collecting dining hall UPCs.   Kellogg’s would send a Lego kit FREE for just one UPC, so every day we would grab dozens of UPCs.  The EcoHouse mailroom was not pleased when 600 envelopes arrived.  We donated most, but kept 100 minifigs for Lego flashmobs.  We then expanded UPC acquisitions for 1000 liters of RC-Cola, tested Orgo chemicals on Gak and Wacky-Wall-Walkers, and made a small ball pit from free soccer balls.  Unsurprisingly, Kellogg’s started charging for promotions soon after.

What random or surprising encounters with Cornell or Cornellians have you experienced since you left?

Once, I was sitting with my family outside a country store in Woodstock, Vermont, when I heard the notes of "Annie Lisle" quietly in the distance.  My wife had no idea why my head snapped around, and I eventually found some gentlemen singing near the town green.  They were Sherwoods, and most were at the (infamous) Fall Tonic XII of our freshman year, where the Hangovers realized that champagne and velvet curtains just don’t mix.  The Sherwoods graciously covered my terrible signing voice in another round of the Alma Mater, and I returned elated back to my family.