Cornell University
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Cornell University

Mentorship changed Claire Choi’s ’22 life and perspective

College: Human Ecology
Major: Design + Environmental Analysis
Hometown: Irvine, California

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed Claire Choi’s ’22 mindset about productivity and work styles. Although the pandemic has been disorienting, she says it has taught her some valuable lessons.

“Specific to my design courses, working on client-based projects across time zones and Zoom calls completely altered my understanding of how crucial getting to know your teammates’ contrasting working styles really is in creating great work,” Choi says. “And even beyond the work, how crucial it is to give yourself time for reflection and space away from the chaos of the productive student mentality.”

She’ll carry those lessons with her not only into her post-graduate plans (working as a strategy analyst at frog, a global creative consultancy in New York City) but into whatever the next chapter of her life looks like.

It was Choi’s second year at Cornell, specifically the 2020 spring semester when students were sent home, that was most influential in her career path. Choi was finally taking classes she was personally interested in instead of fulfilling core requirements.

Two courses that influenced her were Advanced Design and Innovation with Denise Ramzy and Positive Design Studio with Jay Yoon.

“Overall, these two mentors, their work and their classes truly changed my life and completely altered my perspective on design and its potential,” Choi says.

“In Denise’s class, I had the privilege of working on an Innovation District plan with the City of Ithaca,” Choi said. “It was my first client project and it was the project that forced my student, Californian-stubbornness aside and allowed me to appreciate and fall in love with Ithaca and its unique mix of entrepreneurship, innovation and community.”

In Yoon’s course, students had two major product design projects focused on the relationship of emotions and design, which challenged them to look at design in a new way and ask themselves what about a design makes people happy, why the design makes them feel good and what can we do about it.

“Designers and strategists are often taught to fix things — how can we mitigate this, how do we solve for that — and it was so refreshing to approach design problem solving in a new way,” Choi says.

Choi is thankful for Ramzy’s and Yoon’s courses and encourages other students to take them if possible.

“Overall, these two mentors, their work and their classes truly changed my life and completely altered my perspective on design and its potential,” Choi says.

Choi says the Human Ecology Career Exploration Center (CEC) was also an influential part of her Cornell experience. She started working there her freshman year and it quickly became a core community in her life on campus.

“The CEC was my safe space through all the Cornell career noise,” Choi says. “We will always be talking about post-graduate plans or getting that summer internship or all the other ways of strategically setting up our futures to be as successful as possible — that will never change. But the way we approach these conversations and how they impact the truly uncontrollable process of reaching our career goals, can.”

Cornell’s Class of 2022 has a great deal to be proud of: They have worked hard to forge their futures and make their mark, all the while finding success and demonstrating great resolve through a host of challenges, including the historic adversity of pursing their degrees during a pandemic.

Read more about this incredible group of Cornellians.

Written by Jesse Osbourne
Strategic Communications at Cornell University

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Cornell’s mission is to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to educate the next generation of global citizens, and to promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community.

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