November 7, 2005

Minorities Talk About Career Paths

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Camaraderie and ambition filled Call Auditorium Saturday at the panel discussion titled “Life After Cornell: The Minority Career Perspective.” Alumni both reminisced on Cornell and explained how their experiences here shaped their lives after.

The seven panelists came from diverse ethic backgrounds – such as Native American, Asian American and Latino – and career fields – including law, medicine and environmental studies.

To begin the discussion, each panel member shared a fond Cornell memory.

P. David Soares ’95, district attorney of Albany County, reminisced on his involvement with the 1993 Day Hall takeover in which students rallied for Latino Student Housing and which ultimately resulted in the Latino Living Center’s founding.

During his long walk around campus early Saturday morning, Steven Pae ’92, a principal at the Bank of America Securities, remembered the “torrential water-storm” on his graduation day.

Panelists described the paths to their success while relating to the common undergraduate crisis: what career do I chose?

Pae majored in electrical engineering and participated in a co-op at National Semiconductor. In his co-op, he found particular value in his roommate, an economics major, who opened the door to the world of finance and banking.

“I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my life,” said Gavin Somersel ’93, an obstetrician and assistant professor at Albert Einstein Medical College.

“When I came here, I just wanted to experience the institution,” he said. In his junior year, he had opportunities to do research, and then, when his future then came down to the choice between seven years in a lab and four at medical school, he chose the latter.

“If you can do a job four days out of seven, stick with it,” he said.

Eki Edwards ’98, a fourth year medical student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, however, always knew she wanted to be a doctor. Hansy Better ’98, a founding partner of Studio Luz Architects, felt the same certainty for architecture.

Better said her positions as a professor at Cornell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rhode Island School of Design allow her to recruit, mobilize and give opportunities to other Latinos who want to pursue architecture. She estimated that out of all licensed architects, only five percent are women, one percent are African American and two percent are Latino.

“I do not want to see you feel like you have to pursue something you’re not passionate about. If you want to be an attorney, you’d better make sure it’s going to be your passion,” Soares said.

The panelists thought about their own futures and pondered where they see themselves five to ten years from now.

Both Pae and Soares envisioned sipping drinks on the beach, but acknowledged the need to provide for their own children’s educations.

“I like to put myself in assignments where I’ll grow. I like to take myself out of my comfort zone every two years or so,” Pae said, adding that he eventually sees himself in a role like Chief Technology Officer.

Anthony David MS ’05, program manager at St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, sees his field in water quality growing.

Lesley Ramirez ’02, a Victim Advocate/Executive Assistant at the Crime Victims Assistance Center, described herself as a “floater” and will be making her own career change when she leaves non–profits in June.

“It doesn’t matter where we are as long as we’re happy,” Soares said.

“The panel was reassuring because I’m a senior and don’t know what I want to do,” said Sade Nurudeen ’06.

Many of the panelists brought their spouses, finances, or significant others – many of whom were also alumni – to the event. Marriages mean double the connections for networking according to Malinda B. Smith, from the Office of Minority Educational Affairs.

“I met my wife here, too, so look around because you’ll be married to each other,” Soares said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

The panel discussion has been held for about a decade and received a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award a few years ago, according to Smith. The organizers seek to represent a broad range of career fields and find panelists who will want to help and interact with students, she added.

“One of the speakers is from my community, the Akwesasne-Mohawk tribe,” said Kyrie Ransom ’09, referring to Davis. She said his work in environmental studies makes her want to investigate the natural resources major.

“I enjoyed the panel. The speakers were down to earth, related to us, and were just regular people. I appreciated how frank they were,” Nurudeen said

Archived article by Jessica DiNapoli
Sun Contributor