September 14, 2004

C.U. First Stop in Documentary

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When he nearly failed high school, his teachers never would have said that Sean-Michael Green law ’03 would someday attend eight Ivy League schools. Years later, he is doing just that.

Green is on campus this month writing a book about what it’s like to be an Ivy League student.

“We love to see how other people live, and who better to spy on than some of the most brilliant and privileged young people in the world?” he said.

Cornell is the first stop on an eight-month journey that spans the freshman experience at Cornell to graduation ceremonies at Princeton.

“I am a fan of higher education the way that some people are fans of football. I wear the team colors, track statistics, and follow the ins and outs of my favorite schools,” he said. He will spend a month at each Ivy League school, attending lectures with students as well as sampling the social scene.

Cornell was a natural first stop on his journey. While he has encountered resistance about the project at other schools, Green said Cornell has been particularly welcoming. “The administration is very confident in their students,” he said.

“Cornell students seem to be very well-grounded. I haven’t encountered obnoxious arrogance on campus.”

He adds that Cornellians are “absolutely a good looking bunch of people!”

So far, students have brought him to classes ranging from a writing seminar, a restaurant management course, and macroeconomics class to the ever-popular Psychology 101 and Human Bonding.

“I keep saying I’m not going back, but then I end up going back anyway,” he said about Human Bonding. He also adds, “I’m going to be sad to leave Psych 101.”

This week, he says, “I will attend and try to comprehend an engineering class on Friday.” Also in his schedule is an ILR class and Government 181, which came highly recommended.

In his notebook, he scribbles notes for the book alongside facts picked up in class.

“I’m taking notes just like a student,” Green said. A look at his notebook reveals an eclectic assortment of knowledge:

“We need more covers,” he jotted down during a School of Hotel Administration lecture. Laughing, he admits that he’s still trying to figure out what the professor meant by that. Another note reads: “Big Bang: 13.7 billion years ago,” a tidbit that was picked up in an astronomy class.

But Green is also taking notes about the students. During the past two weeks, he has spoken to over two hundred people about their experience.

“Last night after midnight, I went into Rand Hall to watch the architecture students work. Yesterday I visited the gorge behind the observatory by Beebe Lake. I spoke with several undergrads who were filming a student movie that required them to jump repeatedly from the bridge.”

Students have invited him to both Student Assembly meetings and lingere/foam parties. He went to a meeting but left the lingere to the younger crowd.

“The experience of writing about students is much different from being a student. In plain terms, I don’t fit in,” he said.

This hasn’t stopped Cornellians from taking him under their wings.They’ve taken him to a lecture by Oliver Sacks, a neuroscientist and professor-at-large. Phi Delta Theta initiated him into the nuances of Greek life. One student personally introduced him to Cornell’s reputation for vigor by inviting him to go running. The student just wanted to make sure of one thing: “‘you’re not fast, are you?”

“Not only was she fast,” Green said, “but she took me on a course that almost killed me.” For this project, he has been paying particular attention to the freshmen. “Freshmen tend to stand out. They look younger than they are. They just don’t walk with the same level of confidence. Normal freshman stuff, though,” Green said.

Green likens himself to a freshman just starting college, and he’s writing the first chapter of that experience at Cornell. “By the time I’m done [with the book], I’ll hopefully be like a senior.”

Like the book, his college career has spanned several schools. He went from nearly failing high school student to serving in the U.S. Marine Corps to earning an undergraduate degree at University of Pittsburgh. He has earned a master’s degree from University of Pennsylvania and graduated from Cornell University Law School. When asked what he’d do differently if he could do it over again, Green said, “I’d either be in Arts & Sciences or the hotel school.”

On campus through September 20, Green encourages students to get in touch with him at smg@seanmichaelgreen.com.

“I don’t want to accost people on the street. I want to meet a student, have them introduce me to friends,” he said.

“I’m always afraid that students will think that I’m busy. But I want to know the funny stories. All I care about is that people laugh,” he added.

Archived article by Irena Djuric
Sun Staff Writer