'Cornell has shown me I am worthy of dreaming big'

Alexis Ren

Mathematics and Economics
Plano, Texas

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

  1. The ability to advocate for myself: at a large school like Cornell and in a major as large as economics, you can easily become a face in the masses. In these situations, I’ve realized that you are your best spokesperson, and knowing how to advocate for yourself is a valuable skill, which includes being proactive when reaching out to professors and taking the initiative in applying for exciting opportunities. By doing so, people have been more than willing to help, and I’ve been able to gain so many more experiences than had I just opted to sit back and wait for such opportunities to land in my lap.
  2. The ability to be comfortable not knowing how to do things: I also majored in mathematics, although by no stretch was I very good at it. A good number of times, I would not only just read the materials given by my professor once but I’d read it multiple times and read additional lecture material I found online. Sometimes, afterwards, I’d still be lost while doing my problem sets. Throughout this process, I’ve learned to stay calm and just THINK. Sit down and mull over a problem, even if this process takes days. Calmly start trying different approaches. Write the assumptions, what you know from the axioms, and the conclusion you want. Work forward from the assumptions and backward from the conclusion until something sticks. 

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you?

Piano means so much to me that I’m not sure how to write the words to express how I feel. It’s been a part of me since I begged my parents for lessons at age seven, and it’ll be an old friend that keeps me company until the end of my life. Playing piano and being able to make beautiful music at Cornell with Prof. Xak Bjerken and the rest of the studio and music department has been a privilege that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

Going to Boston as the stock pitch team representing Cornell for the Women in Investing (WIN) Conference my sophomore year. This trip was my first stock pitch competition I did outside of Cornell, and it definitely sparked my passion for stock pitch competitions throughout my undergraduate time. Not only did Cornell generously sponsor our trip to Boston, but it was an amazing opportunity to be able to collaborate with like-minded female students and to represent Cornell amongst other universities. This experience not only gave me close friends whom I still am in touch with years later, but it also solidified my aspirations to pursue a career in investing. 

girl on balcony

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? What have you discovered about yourself?

My time at Cornell has shown me that I am worthy of being able to “dream big.” Before coming to Cornell, I always thought that producing meaningful change or making a significant difference in society was for people who had more privilege or were smarter than I was. However, during my time at Cornell, I’ve been surrounded by so many motivated, down-to-earth and thoughtful peers who have inspired me by the accomplishments they have achieved. They've shown me that anyone can make an impact and that any impact — no matter how big or small — is significant. And because of them, I’ve been inspired to want to be better. I want to live more meaningfully, I want to create change more impactfully, and I want to be able to use the platform Cornell has given me to give back to society more generously. 

Where do you dream to be in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope to be living the American Dream -- being financially secure, intellectually satisfied, emotionally content, and spiritually fulfilled. Normalcy is so underrated. 

But in actual words: I still want to have skin in the stock market as an investor since I’ve always been interested in it, but instead of focusing on maximizing returns for ultra-wealthy clients, I want to invest with an impact, especially for those without financial knowledge or acumen. I want to help the everyday person — like my parents— be able to financially meet their needs and goals. I have seen firsthand how the financial industry can be pivotal in creating opportunities, and I want to ensure those opportunities are open to as many people as possible.

And it would be nice if I also had a white picket fence house with a cute family in the ‘burbs. That would be a dream.

Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2021.

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Alexis Ren