The first 3-weeks at Cornell Johnson have been a stark contrast from our time at the LSE. Ithaca is a small town with no dearth of scenic beauty. The campus, spread over 725 acres, is absolutely astounding. We arrived in late-August and the weather has been perfect to enjoy the nature around us. So far, our weekends have been spent exploring nearby waterfalls, farmers markets and state parks, before the dreaded winter sets in.
Classes are a lot more intense and discussion-based— you are expected to actively participate and engage in debate. Keeping up with the American education system, grading is done throughout the term through case presentations, quizzes etc. However, what really sets Johnson apart is the sense of fellowship running through the entire school.
The business school has about 800 students, and the community is very close-knit. Academically, we are required to work in teams on various projects for most courses— including subjects such as Financial Statements Analysis and Pricing Strategy. Often as an exchange student, this would mean forming a team with 2nd year MBA or accelerated MBA students. Working together in such teams really strengthens the community feeling.
At the heart of the business school— Sage Hall— is an atrium where students sit together engaged in discussion, working on projects, or just conversing about everyday things over a cup of coffee. It is here that the Sage Social takes place. Similar to GMS Mixers, Johnson organises a Sage Social every Thursday as a way for students from different courses to mingle and socialise with each other, faculty members and staff. Many of the MBA students have moved here with their families, so partners, spouses and children also get together at this time. It’s a great way to network and meet new people!
In order to strengthen the already supportive community, students are assigned to one of six cohorts. Started as a platform for building meaningful connections across the school, we attended the kick-off event— Ezra Games just yesterday. It comprised various team building activities and adventure sports. While some students explored the Cornell campus Amazing Race style, others rappelled off a stadium, and others still explored their climbing skills in indoor and outdoor settings. For the less physically-inclined of us, there were team games such as pitching a tent while blindfolded (only one team member could see, but not build).
This was followed by an after-party at the very beautiful Ithaca Farmers Market. Johnson rented out the entire place after its regular hours, and arranged for good food, drinks, dessert and music to end the night on a high note. This was a great way to meet new people in a relaxed setting, amidst the backdrop of a lake and fairy lights.
Further adding to our typical American college experience was the Homecoming Weekend– a “football” match to which alumni are invited. It was an elaborate event with fireworks and school pride running throughout. Johnson organised a tailgate party to welcome its alumni back to school. Cornell’s unofficial mascot- a bear named Touchdown, greeted the crowds while everyone celebrated the spirit of Homecoming, even as Cornell lost the game.
I see now that they really meant it when they said that Cornell is all about cooperation over competition. Here’s a glimpse of fall at Cornell and I can’t wait to see what the next 3 months have in store for us!
– Mitali Chordia, GMiM 2020