Student quotes | Faculty quotes

Alumni Perspectives

Storm Ziegler, vocal performance and secondary vocal music education
Director of vocal music, John F. Kennedy High School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

"Cornell's liberal arts focus and OCAAT calendar allowed me to experiment in a number of academic areas, including music. I was able to play leading roles in three musicals and two plays, perform two major recitals, perform in the Concert Choir and Chamber Choir, and co-direct the Cornell Women's Choir. I was able to serve as Student Senate president and sat on the strategic planning committee with faculty and administration. Cornell allows you the freedom to discover talents and interests you never knew you had, while at the same time providing you with the guidance, training, and opportunities to become proficient in whatever discipline you choose."


Hillary Murrish, psychology and politics
Senior analyst, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Washington, D.C.

"OCAAT taught me how to balance a heavy workload with several assignments due in a short timeframe, which is much like my current job. At GAO I work on one project, but have to complete several tasks (schedule and conduct interviews with agency officials, analyze data, draft report sections, etc.) in a short amount of time. OCAAT is much more like the 'real world' than the semester plan (which is how I did graduate school)."

Baron Bremner, biochemistry and molecular biology
Orthopaedic surgeon, Des Moines, Iowa

"OCAAT allowed me to plan my schedule such that I could intensely train for football and wrestling during less demanding courses in the fall and winter, and focus on Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, etc. during blocks in which I wasn't playing a sport. In post-graduate training, I found that OCAAT was an advantage when my study habits were compared to those of my medical school peers. I was already used to immersing myself in a subject, which the rigors of medical school require."

 Barron Bremner

Laura Arnold Bernier, English
Freelance editor, Los Angeles, Calif
Formerly editor, HarperCollins Children's Books, New York

"In an always-bustling office, prioritization is the most important skill to have. OCAAT really teaches you to focus in on one thing, even in the midst of a multitude of extracurricular activities. If you have a paper due on Tuesday, an exam on Wednesday, and a presentation on Thursday, you can't work on them all at once, you have to choose what is most important at that moment. Meanwhile, the emphasis on sharp writing and a clear thought process that the English department taught me has been very beneficial in an industry where the written word is paramount."

Brandi Shanata, mathematics and sociology
Statistican, Unraveling Data: Statistical Solutions Simplified, New Orleans

"The structure of the block plan was great preparation for the workload, pace, and concentration of graduate school. The ability to take complex problems or large sections of reading assigned in class one day and have completed the assignment as well as digested the concepts the next is a skill Cornell courses and professors helped me foster and has been invaluable as a graduate student. The block plan is an amazing way to learn! If I could have gone to graduate school on the block plan I would have."

Brandi Shanata

Mark McDermott, biology & secondary education
High school science teacher and coach, Iowa City West High School

"I was able to get a lot out of informal discussions with the teachers I worked with in observations and practicum experiences that I would not have enjoyed if I wasn’t free to spend as much time as I needed to at the school site. The OCAAT system taught me about focus and taught me to be flexible. It was obviously important to be able to focus on a specific subject for a set amount of time, which is a realistic model of what I do in teaching. At the same time, I had to be flexible as you might go from taking an educational psychology class one block to taking a cell molecular biology class the next, and you had to switch your focus accordingly."

 Mark McDermott

Katie Crooks, art history with minors in English and psychology
Public programs coordinator, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

"During my junior year I was able to take a course in Greece for one month, studying the ruins and ancient sites many students only see in books. Leaving campus for only one month allowed me to stay connected to Cornell, while broadening my horizons and enriching my education. The course was amazing, and even though it was not offered through the art department, I was able to take what I learned and apply it directly to my major. Many courses at Cornell are interdisciplinary, and professors are eager to help make connections that are meaningful and relevant to each individual student."

Katie Crooks

Tahllee Baynard, chemistry and history
Research science manager, Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center, Stanford, Calif.

"To find a true solution to difficult problems really requires you to harness all your mental energy for prolonged periods of time, and OCAAT served as an excellent platform for teaching me this much needed skill."

Tahllee Baynard

Carrie Helmold, music, French and Russian
Program analyst, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.

"OCAAT helped me enormously in developing my study habits. After having taken 7 subjects at once throughout high school, I found it so much more pleasant to focus on one subject at a time, especially when it was a subject I was truly interested in. Also, because of the scheduling, I was able to complete three majors. It would have been difficult to study two foreign languages at any other school, but because of the block plan, it was easy for me to compartmentalize each language."

Carrie Helmold

Adam Evearitt, physics and math
Medical physicist, Centennial Medical Physics, Denver

"Being a physics and mathematics major would have limited me at other universities on a more traditional schedule. Could you imagine spending ANY time on a paper-making class the same semester as Theoretical Physics, Quantum Mechanics, or Differential Equations? I was able to do it at Cornell because of the block plan, and I found interests I never knew existed. I think that this well-rounded education has increased the quality of my life."


Britta Gregor Krabill, psychology and secondary education
Library director, Columbia Public Library, Columbia, Ill.

"Being on Cornell's One Course At A Time calendar prepared me well for graduate school. While my classmates got nervous at the thought of only having a month to write a research paper, I knew that I would have no problem both meeting the deadline and having a quality product."