Entirely led and run by undergraduates, project teams dedicate significant time to collaboratively solving complex problems, often as part of a national or international competition. Read more about Student Project Teams Adjusted and Thrived Despite Pandemic Challenges
- Hometown: Austin, Texas
- Operations Research
To read her blog, Dork University, you might get the impression that Amanda Kushner doesn't like Cornell, and you'd be right. "I love it," she says. "I do rail on Cornell a lot, but it's always in a funny manner."
With Cornellian parents and grandparents, Kushner has wanted to go here since she was very young. "I used to get the words 'Cornell' and 'college' confused when I was a little kid," she says."My teddy bear when I was little said 'I survived Cornell.'"
Kushner's parents wanted to make sure she would survive, too, so they sent her to Cornell's Summer College after her junior year in high school. "I was doing more work than any one of my friends and I loved it," she says. "I loved the professors and the campus and I loved the people I met."
Cornell fulfilled all her requirements for a college. "I didn't want to be in a big city," says Kushner. "I wanted to be somewhere that has its own thing going on in the town. And then I wanted somewhere I could study whatever I wanted because I do have very diverse interests."
Those interests include the arts. In high school, Kushner trained in opera and performed musical theater. "I actually took opera this past semester, which was an amazing class," she says. "Last fall I took Shakespeare and it was a 300 level English class and I was the only non-English major in the class. But it was fun."
With three Cornell degrees, a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D., all in applied and engineering physics, her dad Brian runs his own consulting business. "I always really wanted to be an engineer because that's what my dad did," says Kushner. "He always had these really cool stories. Right after he graduated he worked for this company that did a lot of contract work for the CIA."
A Cornell Ambassador, Kushner gets to share her extensive knowledge of Cornell lore with visitors during Cornell Days. "I know the past 50 years of Cornell history, thanks to my family," she says. I know a lot of the little myths. Those were like my bedtime stories growing up."
She often finds herself assuring fellow southerners about Ithaca's infamous climate. "I actually do really love the weather here," she says. "In Austin, you don't get four seasons. You get summer. And I do really enjoy getting to see the trees turn."
With her sense of fashion and outgoing personality, a lot of the people guess that Kushner is a "hotelie" studying at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration. "I've always enjoyed the reaction of 'You're an engineer?'" she says. "It's really fun, especially when you're talking to a prospective student who really wants to be in engineering and they can see, you know, yeah, there's stereotypes in every college, but they're stereotypes, they're not the real deal."