'I have realized that there is creativity everywhere'

Will Guzman

Chemistry and Asian Studies
Nashville, Tenn.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell for the diverse extracurricular and course offerings. I knew in high school that I was interested in science, but I also knew that I was interested in Japanese studies, music and food. I wanted to go to a school where I could explore everything to the fullest, and Cornell fit the bill. Today, I am a chemistry and Asian studies double major doing food science research and playing in a Brazilian percussion group, and I don’t think there are many other places where that can happen. 

person drinking coffee

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

A top memory for me is from the last concert of the Glee Club’s 150th anniversary tour. I was one of the tour managers, so I organized a lot of the concerts, travel and coordination with alumni, among other details. We had our final concert in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City, and when we sang the Franz Biebl Ave Maria, it was pretty wild. On top of the fact that I was able to make incredible music with some of my best friends to a 500 person audience in a mind-blowing space, that moment was the culmination of almost a full year and hundreds of hours of planning and preparation. There are few other moments in my life where I have felt so proud to be me. 

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

person near waterfall

I had a closed view of what it meant to be “creative” or “innovative” prior to coming to Cornell. It seemed like creativity only applied to artists or musicians. Since coming to Cornell, I have realized that there is creativity everywhere. No matter where you look, you can find highly intelligent people doing fascinating work. Throughout the lectures, parties, late-night conversations and post prelim chicken wings, I have realized that you can find creativity in every field, concept, and context. 

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

Say yes! Audition for an ensemble even if you have never played an instrument. Accept a quarter card and then actually go to an event you had never heard of. Go to a party and meet a stranger. Go to office hours and ask a professor how their day is going. Go climb a waterfall (but don’t swim in the gorge!). Say yes to all of the amazing opportunities available to you at Cornell, and your time here will be endlessly rich and fulfilling (albeit very busy). 

How has your Cornell education and experience prepared you to deal with the challenges and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic?

For better or for worse, Cornell taught me how to be resilient and flexible — qualities that have been incredibly powerful during the pandemic. Studying organic chemistry for 35 hours/week for 2-3 weeks to get a 47 on the exam teaches resilience (don’t worry, the average was a 46). Similarly, planning events that feel like they are falling apart an hour before starting and accidentally triple booking yourself for a Friday night necessitates flexibility. My Cornell experience, similar to the pandemic, has challenged me both mentally and physically and has taught me that in the face of challenges and uncertainty, resilience and flexibility are invaluable. 

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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Will Guzman