Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science
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Graduates reflect on Bowers CIS experience: Strong foundations, new opportunities

May 21, 2024

Graduation is finally here, and the 2024 Cornell Bowers CIS graduates have so much to be proud of. They have pursued their passions through coursework and impactful research, immersed themselves in new experiences, and created a future full of opportunity.

Hear from undergraduate and graduate students below in their own words, as they look back on their foundational years at Bowers CIS.

 

Sarah McMorrow, Computer Science

What clubs, organizations, or activities were you involved in during your time at Cornell? How were those experiences?

My biggest commitment is to the Varna Volunteer Fire Company where I am a volunteer firefighter and EMT. I have a passion for helping people that I share with all of the wonderful members of the department. I am also part of the Cornell Center for Health Equity where I help educate students about health disparities and volunteer opportunities. I do genetics research in the Buckler Lab and bioarchaeology research in the Human and Animal Bone Lab. I am also part of the On Tap Dance Troupe! Through all of these experiences, I have learned so much and found a strong community here at Cornell. 

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Sarah McMorrow

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

I am most proud of the fact that I have, to the best of my ability, pursued everything and anything I am interested in. Despite setbacks, I have not allowed myself to be limited. I studied computer science, the life sciences, and the humanities. I even dabbled in intramural soccer and ski racing. Through exploring so many classes and extracurriculars, I have learned a lot about myself and how I envision my path in the future. I've learned that I wouldn't feel fulfilled at a desk job, and I like to think that even though I don't often belong on a black diamond trail, I have found a passion for adventure and learning. 

 

Thomas Foster, Statistics and Data Science

What are the most valuable skills you gained from Bowers CIS?  

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Thomas Foster

The biggest thing I learned in Bowers was how to be adaptable. In the first four semesters of the curriculum in the CS major, you learn a new language every semester, while learning the conceptual work in parallel. By the end, you know all the basic algorithms and data structures, and are reasonably proficient in a handful of languages, but more importantly, you've learned how to pick up whatever language is in vogue next week and apply the same theory. And that's just one example of many in the curriculum. I think we do a good job of making our graduates adaptable, persistent, and creative.

What advice do you have for current or incoming Cornellians?

I always tell the freshman on the cross country team that the days are long but the weeks are short. Once you get into a schedule with classes, prelims, and  extracurriculars, the time just flies past – you're doing a lot, but it goes fast. Try to take a second to remember how special this place is once in a while. Sit down and chat with a professor, stare down at the waterfalls, and walk a loop of the library – just smell the books and try to inhale the knowledge. It is a beautiful place, and I think we can lose that in the day to day.

 

Haobin Ni, Ph.D., Computer Science

What clubs, organizations, or activities were you involved in during your time at Cornell? How were those experiences?

I have been the coach of the Cornell International Collegiate Programming Contest for six years. It was an empowering experience as I helped students [develop] their problem-solving and programming skills.

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Haobin Ni

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

My Ph.D. advisors, Robbert van Renesse and Greg Morrisett. They lead by example what it means to be an academic: dedicated to truth, education, and the greater good of society.

What is your all-time favorite Cornell memory?

In fall 2018, I proposed a hypothesis about a Markov chain as part of the final project for CS 6820, but didn't manage to prove it before the project deadline. When my report was graded, Bobby Kleinberg commented it was an interesting question and proved it himself.

 

Pika Cai, MPS, Information Science

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

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Pika Cai

Firstly, my teammates consistently pursue perfection, which has reshaped my work ethic and standards. Secondly, my professors, who not only teach valuable knowledge, but also show kindness beyond necessity, underscoring its importance in academia and beyond.

What was your favorite class and why?

My favorite course was INFO 5355 Human Computer Interaction Design taught by Gilly Leshed. It was the primary reason I chose Cornell for my MPS degree, as I wanted to learn systematic UX design. This class exceeded my expectations in every way. Each lecture and session left me feeling inspired. Thank you, Gilly.

 

Jessica Sylvester, Computer Science

What are the most valuable skills you gained from Bowers CIS? 

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Jessica Sylvester

I gained invaluable skills in teamwork and software development through Cornell AppDev. As a backend developer on the team, I collaborated with Android and iOS developers, designers, and marketers to work on one of our products. This experience mirrored a real-world industry setting, exposing me to concepts such as product sprints, code reviews, and standup meetings. These skills were not only crucial for my later internships but also provided me with experience in working in a team-oriented environment.

What is your all-time favorite Cornell memory?

My favorite Cornell memory was traveling to Ghana earlier this year with Code Afrique. Through the Bowers CIS Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Accra and Kumasi, where I taught introductory computer science to local Ghanaian high school students. Over the course of three days, our team lectured on introductory Python and discussed the opportunities available in the world of technology. The experience was both rewarding and impactful, as it allowed me to contribute to the empowerment of students in a different part of the world.

 

Simone Green, Computer Science

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

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Simone Green

Peer education has been a large part of my Cornell experience. Beginning in my sophomore year, I served as an engineering peer advisor, facilitated Academic Excellence Workshops, and worked as a TA for a core CS course (CS 3410). Each opportunity I've had to partner in the journey of other students has been rewarding for many reasons. Connecting with others and sharing our mutual interests has allowed me to learn from and encourage others from diverse backgrounds. It has also taught me the value of asking for help, as well as the grace that comes with assisting someone else. Being a good teacher requires patience, empathy, and passion for whatever you are sharing; oftentimes these aren't skills that those pursuing STEM are taught to appreciate, so I know this has made me more equipped to be successful in the future. 

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

The career field I’m interested in pursuing – cybersecurity and tech policy – is not the most typical or accessible path for a computer science major. I realized early on that I would have to be proactive in supplementing my education, and I’m proud of how I’ve adopted an interdisciplinary approach that prepared me to confidently step into my academic and professional goals. I also completed two minors that complimented my technical background, preparing me for the intersection of technology with geopolitics, policy, and ethics. 

 

Tammy Zhang, Information Science

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

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Tammy Zhang

I’m most proud of how I’ve been able to use the skills I’ve learned in my classes to contribute meaningfully to two scientific institutions whose work I find both really important and personally interesting  – the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). I worked part-time at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for nearly three years as a student assistant. This was an incredibly fun job where I met researchers doing impressive work in ecology, environmental conservation, and scientific communication. Later on, after taking a class in data-driven web applications and a class in programming for meteorology, I landed a part-time job at NCAR as a front-end developer, where I now workon creating interactive climate data visualizations. 

What’s next?

After graduating this spring, I'll be back at Cornell in the fall! I was admitted to Cornell's Information Science MPS program and started earning early credit towards it this past semester. I'm on track to graduate with my master's degree this December. I'll also be continuing my research at NSF NCAR through the end of this year, and am aiming to continue working in data visualization and web development in the future.

 

Kayla Sprayberry, Computer Science 

What clubs, organizations, or activities were you involved in during your time at Cornell? How were those experiences? 

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Kayla Sprayberry

I was involved with URMC, WICC, AppDev, ACaU, Artistic Beads, and Cornell Tradition. I also had work experience at North Star and A&S Communications. By far, my involvement in organizations on campus has made my Cornell experience the best it could have been. 

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

I am most proud of all the mentees I leave behind. When I was URMC president I often got the question, "Was it all worth it?" My answer was always, if my mentees are able to prosper and do great things, then yes, I would do it all over again. 

If you had to describe your Cornell experience in one word, what would it be?

Transformative.

 

Elvis Marcelo, Computer Science

What are the most valuable skills you gained from Bowers CIS? 

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Elvis Marcelo

I've definitely grown as a leader through Bowers. My project team, Cornell AppDev, allowed me to teach a course for a year on how to build iOS apps. It was the first time I had any exposure to teaching, and it has opened my eyes to the possibilities of becoming a teacher in the future. My involvement in URMC also provided me leadership opportunities, as I was an active member of our eboard and collaborated with others to plan events. Bowers has given me the opportunity to dive into these clubs with no hesitation, and provided a playground for me to explore my interests and strengthen my leadership skills.

What is your all-time favorite Cornell memory?

I was at the graduation ceremony of my senior friends from my junior year, and I began reflecting on all the memories I had made alongside them. It hit me that these were the friends I'd have for the rest of my life. Although the friendships had simple beginnings, such as being co-eboard members on a club or being classmates in Introduction to Algorithms, those friendships outlasted all of those clubs and classes and have become stronger since.